India’s abortion law stirs concern for women: US study

Washington DC, Jun 26 (ANI): A new study has revealed that India’s abortion law is putting women at risk, suggesting that it should be changed.

Senior doctor Nikhil Datar wrote that proposed amendments to India’s abortion law are “contradictory” and need “urgent redrafting” to prevent women from making ill informed decisions and risking their lives with illegal terminations.

He explained that India legalised abortion in 1971 by passing the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MPT) Act, which allows termination of pregnancy until only 20 weeks’ gestation. Except for when a woman’s life is at immediate risk, the act restricts the termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks’ gestation, without explanation for this arbitrary cut-off.

This means that if a serious fetal abnormality is detected after 20 weeks, the woman has no choice but to continue the pregnancy, even if she does not wish to. This arbitrary 20 week cut-off compels women to make ill informed decisions, argues Datar.

He points out that, if ultrasound testing, typically at about 18 weeks’ gestation in India, indicates a suspicious variation in fetal anatomy, the physician needs to ascertain the degree of seriousness with additional prenatal diagnostic tests. By the time a definitive diagnosis can be made, and the woman understands the prognosis, the pregnancy might well have advanced beyond 20 weeks.

This encourages women to terminate pregnancies in haste before definitive diagnoses are made, he warns, adding that compelling women to continue pregnancies against their wishes may cause physical and mental trauma.

He believes that amending the law is the only legitimate solution to the problem, but says two recently proposed changes to the act by the government of India “need immediate rectification.”

The study appears in The BMJ. (ANI)

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