Reformation of Abortion Laws in India

Updated: May 15, 2020

By Priya Das[1]

The term pregnancy in layman terms means the entire time limit that a foetus takes to develop inside the womb of a female body or uterus. The ending of the pregnancy is known as abortion. In the legal term following Indian laws the ending of pregnancy within a certain term period can be stated as an abortion. Following the same if the ending of such pregnancy takes place after the limited time period the term changes to foeticide. Keeping in mind the Indian laws the legality of abortion changes according to the circumstances and situations.

The statute related to pregnancy in India is given under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971. As it has been earlier stated that there is a time[2] limit for ending the pregnancy. If the termination occurs after the prescribed time than it is considered a punishable offence. “Law is dynamic in nature” this definition of law holds true. It has often been argued that the ending of pregnancy is equally a section of mother’s caring because a mother knows when it is not right to bring life to this world. The ending of pregnancy can happen in two methods in India. The first being the medical method through the help of pills and medication. The second method is a surgical method which generally takes place after the seventh week. The surgical method is stated to more precise and accurate.

The statute regarding the termination of pregnancy is also provided in the Indian Penal Code indirectly. The[3]Indian Penal Code deals with laws of miscarriage. Moving towards the official abortion statute of India the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act[4]. This act provides the ending of pregnancy within twelve weeks with the consent of a medical specialist. This statute further provides termination between twelve to twenty weeks. However, in this situation consent by two medical specialists are needed.

India has responded to the dynamic nature of the termination laws in a just manner. The worthiness of life has always been a debatable topic. However, growing past the societal pressure and putting the rights of a woman above is what India has stood for in the year, 2020. The Union Cabinet[5] has amended the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The scope of the present act has been expanded with the inclusion of gender justice, therapeutic, humanitarian and on social grounds. This amendment helped India secure a place within the top league nations serving the cause of women. The amendment provided an extension to the termination period. The ending of pregnancy can now be done from twenty to twenty-four weeks. The extension also includes minors, differently-abled, rape victims and incest. The present amendment also covers the failed contraception and extends the same “to any woman or her partner”.

The step taken by the Indian Union Cabinet was crucial. The year 2010 to 2014 the World Health Organization carried a survey according to which nearly fifty-six million[6] termination of pregnancy took place worldwide each year. The ending of this pregnancy includes safe and unsafe methods. On analysing the survey in details it was found that section of unsafe termination of pregnancy was more. It has been noticed during the survey that the countries that are developed, had more strict rules regarding abortion. They saw more unsafe termination throughout the year. 42% of the women that attained the reproductive age are in the countries that are developed.  Thereafter, the countries having strict regulation on termination of pregnancy pose a threat to women’s health.

Everybody is essentially aware of one single fact that the decision to bringing life is always debatable in India. Carefully looking into our society this topic of termination has always been a controversy. Thereafter, it is rightful to question that exactly at which period can a women’s right be restricted? Some believe that life starts right after fertilisation yet some do not. Here law becomes extremely important. The values present in society and the views of different people are always going to be uncertain. The law provides a skeleton framework making it certain as what is under the frame of legality. Thus, the time period set for termination laws may seem pointless to some but is indeed necessary.

The medical science has made tremendous progress since 1971. The amendment thereafter provides a big step ahead for India. India now stands as a country that has provided its women with the basic human right. Increasing the upper gestation time period from twenty weeks to twenty-four along with different categories of women is a remarkable achievement. Scientific tests on pregnancy have been proved that termination of pregnancy after twenty weeks is safe.

India when is compared to the US, stands at a strong and better pedestal. The termination of pregnancy laws in India is considered more lighten than others. In the United States, the termination of pregnancy is taken as a political issue. The women of the United States have a difficult time using their reproductive rights. The humanitarian law that stands firmly with women’s right is extremely stringent. The President[7] of The United States of America Donald Trump has pulled out the funding to any overseas organization. The pulling out of the fund took place for abortion purposes. The act of pulling the fund out has been published by The Guardian, in the year 2017. The decision of doing the same act has been taken in a session without the presence of any women. At the present moment, a number of countries do not allow termination of pregnancy. Twenty-six countries do not allow abortion. While on the other hand, only about thirty-nine countries allow termination in case the women pregnant is at risk of losing her life.

Thus, it can be justly concluded that this amendment has made the position of India strong. The decision of whether or not a pregnancy should be carried out should be done by the pregnant lady itself. It is her body and she should be provided this basic right over her own body. This amendment is extremely helpful in cases where underage girls are raped. In many of such heinous cases the girls are left extremely wounded and weak. In other such cases the girls do not even understand that they are pregnant. Thus, as a result they fall into the unsafe termination processes. In the incident of sexual violations the girls are often not educated. Due to lack or education they are often unaware of the situation. It is only at the later term period that they realise about the pregnancy. In such cases this amendment has been of greater help. Therefore, this amendment has provided India a greater humanitarian position worldwide.


[1] 5th Year, BSc.LLB (Honors), School of Law, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar.

[2] Is Abortion legal in India? , Myadvo (Sep. 12, 2019)

[3] Indian Penal Code, § 312- 316 (1860).

[4] Medical termination of Pregnancy, (1971).

[5] Neetu Chandra Sharma, Keeping up with medical advancements, India moves towards liberalization of abortion rules (Feb. 4, 2020)

[6] Id

[7] Chitra Subramaniam, India’s new abortion law is progressive and has a human face (March. 7, 2020) ,

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