According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some two-thirds of abortions performed in India are unsafe, done illegally either at home or at makeshift clinics by non-professionals. These dangerous procedures result in 4,600 deaths annually (about one woman every two hours), with many more suffering life-term health effects. And this in a country where abortion is legal and can be accomplished safely.
- Act quickly
If you need an abortion, the earlier you act the better. You can approach any general practitioner and ask for guidance. If they can’t perform the abortion, they should be able to put you in contact with the right person.
- Know your rights
Indian law allows a woman to have an abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy in cases where the mother’s life or physical or mental health is at risk, in cases of rape or foetal abnormality, or for social or economic reasons.
The procedure requires no permission from a woman’s family or partner. No consent is needed but her own. It is her right, guaranteed by law. Government-run primary health centres offer abortion services free of charge. At private hospitals, they may charge anywhere from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 10,000.
- Understand that abortion is very safe
A safe abortion, done by a qualified medical professional, is among the safest of medical procedures (safer than delivery, for instance). As with any procedure, there is a small risk of complications – for abortions, these occur in two to five percent of cases.
- Seek a safe place
As stated earlier, a safe abortion is one performed by a trained medical professional, using updated techniques in a clean facility that is approved by the government. Any abortion performed outside these criteria is illegal and should be seen as unsafe and avoided.
- Know what to expect
The type of abortion will depend on the stage of pregnancy. During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the opinion of your doctor is required for an abortion. During 12 to 20 weeks, the opinion of two doctors is required.
During the first nine weeks, an abortion can be performed with tablets, or, depending on your choice and medical condition, by surgery. Tablets are a safe and effective means of abortion, with a 95 percent success rate. After nine weeks, or if the tablets fail, a surgical procedure will be necessary.
- Contribute to the changing culture
The stigma surrounding abortion, ignorance of its legality and lack of comprehensive sexuality education help explain why so many unsafe abortions are performed in India. By sharing your what you know and by opening up and talking about sexual health, you do your part in helping to change the culture into one where safe and legal abortion options are available and easily accessible to all women.
- Seek an abortion from anyone but a trained professional
Unsafe abortions are dangerous to your health and could lead to infections, trauma, infertility and even death. Why risk your life when safe, legal abortions are available?
Check abortion law in your country here!
- Believe the myths
Have you heard that all abortions are dangerous or can cause serious long-term damage such as infertility? Don’t believe these myths! Although there is a small risk of complications, abortions performed by a trained medical provider are very safe and will not affect future pregnancies.
Read top five myths about abortion!
- Attempt a medical abortion without advice
A medical (versus a surgical) abortion is a simple procedure done by taking pills. As long as a woman has undergone a medical examination to rule out complicated pregnancies and is less than nine weeks pregnant, a medical abortion is a safe, non-invasive method to terminate your pregnancy. However, do not take these pills on your own. Always first seek the advice of your doctor.
- Confuse safe with legal
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act defines a legal abortion as one performed under the guidance of a trained medical professional in an equipped and hygienic facility approved by the government. Even if the abortion clinic is safe and hygienic, if the doctor or the facility does not have government approval, the abortion is illegal.
- Contribute to further stigma
The idea of a woman choosing to not be a mother is often , particularly in cultures where a woman’s value and identity is limited to her role as wife and mother. Respect a woman’s decision if she is not ready to be a mother, or if she already has children and does not want any more. Getting rid of the stigma and broadening education are major steps towards decreasing the number of women in India who die from unsafe abortions every year.
This article was first published on September 30, 2016.