In the past one-and-a-half years, the Supreme Court has witnessed 21 cases where petitioners have sought the court’s permission to terminate pregnancy, while the High Courts have seen 53 cases (16 in the Bombay High Court alone) despite the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act allowing it. The act dates back to 1971.
Advocate Anubha Rastogi, practising at the Bombay HC told The Hindu , “The problem is that at the ground level, the understanding is that you can’t perform a termination till you get court permission, which is incorrect. There have been cases where women come to court even if they are pregnant for eight weeks or 12 weeks, which is ridiculous.”
Ms. Rastogi said the piling up of such cases was cause for concern, especially since the courts have also not asked petitioners why they have approached them.
She said, “The courts are entertaining these cases and passing judgements. While these are positive judgements as far as the interpretation of the law is concerned, the message that is being communicated to doctors and women is that you have to go to court.”
Ms. Rastogi was speaking at a discussion on, ‘How to ensure reproductive justice in India’, where Dr. Nozer Sheriar, former secretary general at the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India, Dr. Suchitra Dalvie, coordinator, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, Anubha Bhonsle , former executive editor, CNN-News 18, Kalpana Sharma, senior journalist and Dr. Indira Behara, Senior Director, Global Health Strategies were present.
The primary objective of the workshop was to have a holistic understanding of abortions and how it is a life-saving service. Abortion in India is legal but is among the top three causes of maternal mortality. Moreover, society still looks down upon it. What was also discussed is that India does not have more than 50,000 gynaecologists but around 15.6 million abortions have occurred in 2015 alone.
Ms. Sharma said, “India is still a conservative society and this is a progressive law which was brought in partly because abortion is a part of family planning, the person who pushed it could be the who thought that sterilisation and abortion could be part of family planning package in the late 1960 and therefore it came in 1971. Ultimately the woman will be blamed either she has a miscarriage or she asserts her right to decide whether she wants to have the child or no thirdly also if she gives birth to a girl child, in every way the woman is blamed to make decisions about her reproductive functions.”