From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act
Mains level : Not Much
Argentina has legalized abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy, in what was a ground-breaking decision in a country that has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws.
In 2009 the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgement in Suchita Srivastava vs Chandigarh Administration case where it was held that right to reproductive autonomy is an integral part of Right to Life under Article 21 of Constitution of India.
The Apex Court stressed that a medical procedure of abortion cannot be carried out on a woman if she has not consented to it.
Hence, the right to reproductive autonomy was held as a Fundamental Right.
About the ban
- Prior, abortions were only permitted in cases of rape or when the woman’s health was at serious risk.
- Activists have been campaigning for years, calling for an overturning of this law that has been in existence since 1921.
- The bill calls for greater autonomy for women over their own bodies and control of their reproductive rights, and also provides better healthcare for pregnant women and young mothers.
Why is it a landmark move?
- Prior to this, girls and women were forced to turn to illegal and unsafe procedures because abortion was against the law in Argentina.
- For girls and women from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the scope of access to safe medical procedures for abortion was even narrower.
- According to Human Rights Watch, unsafe abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country.
- The Catholic Church and the evangelical community wield immense power and influence in Argentina and had strongly opposed the passing of this bill.
- In fact, for several decades, following the beliefs of the Catholic Church, even the sale of contraceptives was prohibited in the country.
Debate over abortions
- There are differing opinions with regard to allowing abortions.
- One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights.
- The other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
- Religiosity of the issue (as in case of Catholics) is another aspect.
What impact will this have in Latin America?
- Activists are hopeful that the passage of this law will have an impact in other countries in Latin America.
- At present, abortions are illegal in Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
- In Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, and in some parts of Mexico, women can request for an abortion, but only in specific cases, and each country has its own laws on the number of weeks.
- The countries also have varying degrees of punishment and penalties meted out to girls and women, including jail.
- Women’s rights activists have acknowledged that despite the new law in Argentina, the fight is far from over in the region.
- Anti-abortion groups and their religious and political backers have attempted to stall any progress in the process.
Back2Basics: Abortion in India
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 has governed women’s right to access abortion and their reproductive autonomy.
- The 2020 amendment bill provides for legal abortion procedure.
- The Act regulates the conditions under which a pregnancy may be aborted. The Bill increases the time period within which abortion may be carried out.
- Currently, abortion requires the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.
- The Bill allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain categories of women between 20 and 24 weeks.
- The Bill sets up state-level Medical Boards to decide if pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities.