The Right of Abortion

“There is no freedom, no equality, no full human dignity and personhood possible for women until they assert and demand control over their own bodies and reproductive process…The right to have an abortion is a matter of individual conscience and conscious choice for the women concerned.” -Betty Friedan, ‘Abortion: A Woman’s Civil Right

The Right of Abortion
The Right of Abortion

The degree of disgrace that a woman is subjected to as a result of being associated with an abortion is insurmountable. The very thought of societal pressure causes women to turn to more unsafe and unprofessional medical procedures for getting an abortion done. This article aims to introspect the stigma that the society still holds against abortions.

The guideline of bodily autonomy summarizes the privilege of every individual, including kids, to self-sufficiency and self-assurance over their own body as an international human right and any unconsented physical interruption as its violation. Abortion refers to ending of a pregnancy by the removal of the foetus or embryo from the uterus artificially. Even though it is legally sanctioned its societal acceptance is negligent.

However, the reasons for getting an abortion are often overlooked. The most common reasons are that such women are either rape victims, or that there are fatal abnormalities in foetal development, or they are in an abusive relationship, or they are not ready to face motherhood yet, failure of contraceptives, socio-economic reasons and so on.

However, with time there have also been positive developments where laws have been passed to make abortions easily accessible by authorising other medical professionals besides doctors to perform such procedure with due care and also perform abortion in later stages of

In traditionally patriarchal societies like India abortion is a mortal sin and its implications for a married woman are seen vastly different from an unmarried woman due to the prejudices about pre-marital or adulterous sexual relations.

Women who indulge in such practices are scrutinized and shamed and when impregnation occurs due to these acts, it is one of the worst fates that can befall on a woman as now they must either get aborted or face the wrath of the society for having a questionable character. This is mainly due to the lack of sex education in our country and the misogynistic ideals of the society. The need of the hour is to provide information and access about modern methods of contraception and emergency contraception, and modern methods of family planning to all men and women to protect them from unwanted pregnancies and STDs, and empower them to lead a healthy life.

The Indian Judiciary plays a pivotal role in provision of equal opportunities to all and to ensure that women have autonomy over their body The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 was passed, which states that abortion is lawful if the continuation of pregnancy would include hazard to life of a pregnant lady or cause grave physical and mental injury, including pregnancy because of assault; danger of physical and mental variation from the norm in the baby and prophylactic disappointment. Abortion is lawful as long as 20 weeks of gestation. Pregnancy can be ended by an enlisted clinical expert enrolled with the State clinical register. According to the Act, just the assent of lady whose pregnancy is being ended is required.

This however, strictly prohibits sex related termination of pregnancy. In cases of exception, like a minor, or a woman who is mentally unstable, assent of the guardian is required. Further amendments have been made for the benefit of women by pushing the upper limit from 20 to 24 weeks in certain special cases.

The Courts have, on numerous occasions, maintained the right of women to settle on self-governing choices about their body and conceptive capacities, including her entitlement to end or proceed with a pregnancy, by expressing that these are the epicentre of a woman’s right to equality and right to live with dignity and individual freedom as true independence implies the privilege of a woman to settle on choices concerning her fertility and sexuality liberated from pressure and brutality.

The constant dilemma of Pro-life Vs Pro-choice in the matter of abortions has taken central importance. This is between those who support the rights of the foetus, or the unborn child and those who are favourably inclined towards the rights of the mother bearing the child. The Pro-life activists believe that it is the duty of the State to protect and safeguard every life whereas those in support of Pro-choice ideology opine that persons are free to make choices with respect to their own bodies as far as they do not infringe others’ right to bodily autonomy.

The pertinent point to be noted in the argument of the supporters of Pro-life ideology is that they assign a “personhood” to the unborn foetus and thereby consider abortion to be a murder. The base of their philosophy rests on the right to life of the foetus while conveniently ignoring the right to life of the mother. It is the ultimate conundrum between two ideologies.

The society fails to accept and understand the physical distress coupled with mental agony that a woman faces when she is denied the basic rights to her own body or when is looked down upon making choices for her betterment. This is just another form of oppression of women in the name of prestige that makes them more emotionally vulnerable.


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