ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Avoidable Deaths

Abortion is legal in India but unsafe abortions claim countless lives.

The biggest irony about unsafe abortions in India is their huge number despite medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) being legal for the last 38 years. According to recently published reports abortion-related deaths constitute about 8% of all maternal deaths in India. Given the high rates of maternal mortality, this means that a large number of women are dying not because the government does not allow abortions but because they are either unable to access safe services or are unaware that they can demand them openly. The social stigma attached to abortion further increases the difficulties of safe access, particularly for young women. Of late, the government’s crackdown on sex-selective abortions has often led to chemists refusing to stock MTP kits and doctors simply turning away women who ask for this service. The stage has thus been set for the proliferation of untrained “experts” who practise in secrecy. Many times these are not fatal but maim their victims for life.

Not only has the government failed to create widespread awareness about the legality of abortion and the public services avail­able in this regard, it has also failed to campaign effectively to de-stigmatise abortions. Of late, the government’s inability to handle any complex socio-legal issue in a nuanced manner has led to increased complications. The demand by certain sections that sex-selection abortions should attract a murder charge has only added to women’s woes.

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