Does India need to decriminalise abortion? | In Focus podcast

Prof Dipika Jain speaks to us about the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of a woman’s appeal to terminate her pregnancy, and the many challenges surrounding access to safe, legal abortions in India.

October 26, 2023 04:15 pm | Updated 04:15 pm IST

Earlier this month, a married woman, who was 26 weeks pregnant, approached the Supreme Court, asking to be allowed to terminate her pregnancy. This was the woman’s third pregnancy, and she told the Court that she did not want to have the baby. She also said she was suffering from post-partum depression and other health issues. She did not know of her pregnancy until quite late, as she was breastfeeding, which can temporarily prevent pregnancies. The Court first agreed to allow her to terminate. But subsequently, following a hospital report that said the foetus was viable and had a heartbeat, and a medical board report that said the pregnancy was not causing an immediate danger to the woman or foetus’s life, the Court rejected her plea to abort the foetus.

The case has sparked a pro-life vs pro-choice debate. Only last year, in a landmark ruling in a case known as X vs NCT the Supreme Court had said it is the woman alone who has the right over her body and was the ultimate decision-maker. But this apart, the case has also thrown into spotlight the laws surrounding abortion in India . So what do the laws, including the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act say? Why do women need to approach the Courts for a termination? Why is it that women across the country still find it hard to access safe and legal abortion services?

Guest: Dipika Jain, professor of law, vice dean and director, Centre for Justice Law and Society, Jindal Global Law School

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.

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