Till now being in relation or having pregnancy for single woman was considered as taboo and it was treated as social stigma. Unsafe abortions have reached such epic proportions in the country that it was imperative to promote safe abortion services as a right of every woman, married or unmarried. Thousands of lives of women can be saved every year by ensuring the availability of abortion services as well as allocation of resources by the Government. In India, being a single woman has many challenges in itself. Recently, however government has made great amendments in abortion laws by rendering support and dignity to single a woman. In the absence of law on their side, in case of unwanted pregnancies single women look towards unsafe methods of abortion such as taking pills or visiting quacks. Illegal abortion centres have mushroomed everywhere and it has become a big business for some doctors. The situation is much worse in rural India where unmarried women have to adopt unsafe ways to terminate a foetus. A non-sterile abortion done by a quack often puts them at risk of infertility and worse still death. This, in turn, intensifies the number of deaths through illegal abortions.
The conjoint causes of death from unsafe abortion are haemorrhage, infection, sepsis, genital trauma, and necrotic bowel. As per estimated figures it account for 12 per cent of all maternal deaths, and 20% of cases of illness and depression due to illegal abortion. India allows legal abortion centres to perform abortion till 20 weeks of pregnancy but their illegal counterparts have no such rules to follow because everything is done here secretly and with mutual consent. Many lives get compromised in the long run. Apart from taking into account the unmarried women, the proposal also includes extending the gestation period for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Since, over 7 million abortions are conducted a year in India alone, this law ensures that women opt for safer methods of abortion. Abortion is purely a personal choice and there is no need to be judgmental about it.
Single unmarried women can now breathe a sigh of relief as the Indian government now plans to stand up for their rights in cases of unplanned pregnancies. Stating that the law of abortion is now legal for all women regardless of their marital status, cases of failure of contraceptives and unplanned pregnancies will now be taken into account. The Union Health Ministry has proposed to allow single women to opt for abortion in cases of unplanned pregnancies, a move aimed to increase their access to safe abortion and allow them to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. The proposal is likely to be taken up by the Union Cabinet after the current Parliament session ends. Experts say the move is progressive and will give women safe and legal abortion options. At present, such abortions are allowed only after the intervention of the court. Various researches reveal that in India, 8 per cent of the total maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions. These deaths can be averted with simple community intervention and minimal resource utilisation.
So far the present law states that the abortion is only considered to be legal in cases of married women. But as per the new recommendations, the law will now stand in support of not just victims of rape and incest, but also take into account the single women. Considering that women are more sexually active in today’s world, this move surely comes across as a progressive one. There are many reasons, where single mother conceives apart from rape or forced sex. Birth control (contraceptive) failure, over half of all women who have an abortion used a contraceptive method in the month they actually become pregnant. To end such unwanted pregnancy and to prevent the birth of a child with birth defects several methods were used to terminate the foetus. The number of unsafe abortions in India was unavailable in the Central Health Management and Information System of the National Rural Health Mission. According to government data for 2008-09, however, a total of 11.06 million abortions were recorded that year. Abortion was made legal in India by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which was passed by Parliament in 1971 and came into effect in 1972. The Act permits abortion if the doctor believes “in good faith” that “…the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.
Then, in 2004, the government endorsed guidelines on the appropriate use of Mifepristone and Misoprostol for self-induced abortion. However, the government has not yet introduced drugs for abortion in public clinics and hospitals. According to a study by IIPS, 76 per cent of the women who come for first-time abortions are unmarried. Statistics collected by Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), a public health organisation, show that about 21 per cent of males and four per cent of females in rural areas admitted to pre-marital sex against an urban figure of 11 per cent of males and two per cent of females. The IIPS survey sample of 55,000 males and females comes from about 1.7 lakh households in Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Molestation, rape abuse to woman is already a dishonour to woman and when she becomes pregnant in unwanted circumstances, appearing in court and seeking justice remains a challenge. I hope this decision of government may honour the dignity of a single mother.
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on firstname.lastname@example.org)