Written by: Aakriti Verma
Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Bringing forth the stances on abortion and highlighting the debate surrounding the two arguments.
Abortion refers to the medical or surgical expulsion of an unborn child. It means that the pregnancy is not being carried to its full term, either due to the choice of the women who does not deem it appropriate for her to bear a child at that point of time or due to conditions where the foetus has a life-threatening abnormality, which causes a risk to the mother or the foetus.
In India, the laws related to abortion are regulated by The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021. It brought about some progressive changes in the direction of allowing for a safe and legal abortion, under certain circumstances.
However, sex-selective abortions are illegal in India as per the Pre- Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
REALITY OF ABORTIONS IN INDIA:
Selling abortion pills without a prescription and not checking the age proof of women are considered illegal under the MTP Act. Some medical store employees provide these pills without prescription at an exorbitant price. The illegal sale of abortion pills is rampant across India, especially in areas where a boy child is seen as superior to a girl child. Even though the practice of sex determination is illegal in India, it is still carried out. This leads to a skewed sex ratio in certain areas.
According to a large-scale survey in six states of India where close to half of the women of reproductive age reside, conducted by the New York- based Guttmacher Institute, it was found that 4 in 5 abortions, which makes up about 81 per cent, are done using Medical Methods of Abortion (MMA) which includes a combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol. The research was published by The Lancet Global Health mentioned and mentioned that there were around 1.56 crore abortions across India in 2015 against the government accounted number of 7 lakh. One-third of all pregnancies ended in abortion, and nearly half of all pregnancies were unplanned. The government figure is not an accurate representation as it only takes into consideration the abortions that are conducted in its hospitals. Abortions continue to go unreported due to the stigma that surrounds it and the taboo of pre-marital sex in India.
PRO-LIFE VS PRO-CHOICE ARGUMENT:
The stance on abortion is major and morality-based. Morality is subjective and thus, this issue remains highly controversial.
One of the arguments that form an essential part of a pro-lifers argument is that it is necessary to protect the rights of the foetus. Many supporters cite religious reasons. Others believe that the foetus has a whole life ahead of it and that should not be taken away due to someone’s irresponsibility, denying the complexity that this situation, many a times hold. Another argument is that instead of the foetus having to bear the brunt of the consequences of the actions of the mother, the foetus should be carried to term and given up for adoption. Many parents are unable to, biologically, have a child of their own. So, instead of abortion, adoption should be promoted. Pro-lifers firmly believe that abortion is murder. They believe that nobody gets to draw the line between when the foetus should be called a human and when should it be treated as a clump of cells. According to them, life begins at the point of conception and no differentiation should be made. Their positions differ in situations of exception such as rape, incest or when there is a threat to the life of the mother and child. Some pro-lifers feel that abortion should be performed in cases of rape, incest, or life threat, whereas others disagree. They also hold the view that women regret having an abortion most of the time. However, this has been debunked by a study conducted in India which showed that a high proportion of women who had an abortion, a few years later, think of their abortion as the right choice and there were no negative feelings.
People who support abortion rights are not always pro-choice. They don't have to choose it for themselves, but they believe that individuals should have a say in the subject. They think that the state should be kept away from religion and thus, religion should not be used as a basis for formulating a law. They usually give a scientific basis for their arguments. According to medical evidence, the foetus cannot feel pain at least before 24 weeks. The system which recognizes the stimuli and alerts the brain of the feeling of pain is not developed until then. They do not equate the foetus or the fertilized egg to a human. Another reason they believe that a person should have a choice is that they do not believe in the adoption system. Moreover, it is not only about raising the child but also about carrying the pregnancy to term, which, in reality, can be a traumatic experience for someone who is not physically, mentally or emotionally ready for it. A question that is supported by this group is- Would you rather prefer to remove a clump of cells, that does not have a conscience, does not have a will, does not know that it is alive and cannot feel pain, and remove it or would you rather have a human, that can feel and has a will, die every day, not in a literal sense or a physical sense but an emotional or psychological sense? When a parent is made to have a child because they were not allowed access to safe and legal abortion, to a huge extent, the child also ends up suffering. The person has an emotionally absent parent who could not get an abortion when needed, an abusive or traumatised parent who was not ready to be a parent or if the child is put up for adoption, he/she grows up thinking that they were not wanted and may end up feeling abandoned even after being adopted. The fact that statements like “you are adopted” and “your parents must have left you in a garbage can or must have thrown you in a sewer” have been normalised and are used as an insult towards people in general. This just goes to show the stigma that has been perpetuated in our society regarding adoption. In 2017-19, the Central Adoption Resource Authority reported an upsurge in the return of children after adopting. They are innumerable cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in the orphanage system. For the reasons stated above and many more, some people choose to be in favour of abortion rights.
Women lose their lives due to unsafe abortion practices every day. Making abortion illegal or more restrictive does not deter women from having an abortion; instead, it encourages them to seek an abortion through dangerous means. A rise in maternal mortality may result as a result of this. In India, the number of abortion clinics is not keeping up with the rise in abortions. These centres' distribution is also uneven. The MTP Act, 2021 is a progressive step toward providing safe abortion facilities to women. But it still gives a lot more power to the doctors than it does to the pregnant women. The doctor has his/her own biases and moral standing which might not always fall in line with the practice of abortion. If the doctor denies a women’s request to get an abortion, then that is that. There have been instances where the doctor has given his/her moral judgement on the issue. The medical practitioner has asked the husband about how he can allow it to take place. Even though the MTP Act, of 2021 does not require anyone’s consent except for the pregnant women in case of abortion, except in the case of minors, the stigma surrounding it is excruciating for the women who have to go through it. It is extremely essential at this point, where apart from legislation, conversations are started on a topic as essential and of widespread importance like abortion.
The Lancet Global Health, The incidence of abortion and unintended pregnancy in India, 2015 (January, 2018).
Corinne H. Roca, Goleen Samari, Diana G. Foster, Heather Gould, Katrina Kimport, “Emotions and decision rightness over five years following an abortion: An examination of decision difficulty and abortion stigma” 248 Soc. Sci. Med. 112782 (2020).
Do fetuses feel pain? What does science say, available at: https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html (Visited on February 15, 2022).
Why Indian parents have returned 278 of 6,650 adopted children in 2017-19, available at: https://theprint.in/india/why-indian-parents-have-returned-278-of-6650-adopted-children-in-2017-19/319437/ (Visited on February 16,2022).
M.E. Khan, Sandhya Barge, Nayan Kumar, “Availability and access to abortion services in India: Myth and realities”, available at:https://iussp.org/sites/default/files/Brazil2001/s20/S21_P10_Barge.pdf