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Women and Reproductive Health Rights

Relevant Provisions of The Indian Penal Code, 1860-

  • Section 312: Causing miscarriage.
  • Section 313: Causing miscarriage without woman’s consent.

However, there are certain situations in which it is legal to terminate the pregnancy on the advice of doctor if:

  • To continue pregnancy involves the risk to the mother’s life (physical or mental); or
  • The pregnancy is caused by rape; or
  • The child is born it would be gravely deformed.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

This Act provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.

  • Forcing a woman to terminate pregnancy is illegal.
  • Abortion is legal when it is done according to the law.
  • Abortion carried on by midwives, nurses or quacks is illegal.
  • It should be done only in Government Hospital or in a hospital authorized by the Government.
  • When pregnancies may be terminated by registered medical practitioners.
  • A registered medical practitioner shall not be guilty of any offence if any pregnancy is terminated by him in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
  • A pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner-
    • Where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks; or
    • Where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks and is done in good faith; or
    • In case where the continuance of the pregnancy would a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury whether physical or mental; or
    • Where there is a substantial risk that if the child was born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
    • Where any pregnancy is alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape (the anguish caused by such pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.)
    • Where any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any device or method for the purpose of limiting the number of children (the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman).
  • No pregnancy of a woman, who has not attained the age of eighteen years, or, who, having attained the age of 18 years, is a lunatic, shall be terminated except for the case in which her guardian gives his/her consent in writing.

Female Infanticide and Foticide

  • Female infanticide is the intentional killing of infant girls.
  • Destroying foetus in the womb, because she is likely to be born as a girl child, is female foticide.
  • All involved in female foeticide deliberately forget to realize that when the foetus of a girl is destroyed, a woman of future is crucified. To put it differently, the present present generation invites the sufferings on its own and also sows the seeds of suffering for the future generation, as in the ultimate eventuate, the sex ratio gets affected and leads to manifold social problems.
  • It is not out of place to state here that the restricted and constructed thinking with regard to a girl child eventually leads to a female foeticide.
  • In addition to the active methods undertaken to eliminate baby girls soon after birth, neglect and discrimination leading to death and sex-selective abortion are also means by which many female children die each year.
  • Ultra sound and scanning, being a non-invasive technique, quickly gained popularity and are now available in some of the most remote rural areas. These techniques are now being used for sex determination with the intention of abortion if the foetus turns out to be female.

The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act, 2002

  • Prohibition of sex-selection -No person, including a specialist or a team of specialists in the field of infertility, shall conduct or aid in conducting sex selection of a woman or a man or both or on any tissue, embryo, coneptus, fluid or gametes derived from either or both of them.
  • Prohibition on sale of ultrasound machines, etc., to persons, laboratories, clinics, etc. not registered-
    • No person shall sell any ultrasound machine or imaging machine or scanner or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus to any Genetic Counseling Centre, Genetic laboratory, Genetic Clinic or any other person not registered under the Act.
    • No pre-natal diagnostic techniques shall be conducted except for the purposes of detection of any of the following abnormalities, viz., chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic diseases, haemoglobinopathies, sex-linked genetic diseases, congenital anomalies, etc.
  • No pre-natal diagnostic techniques shall be conducted unless the person qualified to do so is satisfied for reasons like-
    • Age of the pregnant woman is above thirty-five years,
    • The pregnant woman has undergone two or more spontaneous abortions of foetal loss.
    • The pregnant woman had been exposed to potentially teratogenic agents such as drugs, radiation, infection or chemicals,
    • The pregnant woman or her spouse has a family history of mental retardation or physical incapability,
    • Deformities such as, spasticity or any other genetic disease and
    • Any other condition as may be specified by the Central supervisory Board.

Procedure for Remedy

  • If any doctor or specialist conducts sex selection he will be punished with an imprisonment of 5 years and fine of Rs.10,000/ or removal of his name from register of medical council.
  • Publication, distribution or communication of any advertisement is illegal.
  • A pregnant women cannot be compelled by anyone to get the sex of the foetus determined and those who compel her to do so will be punished with 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs.10,000/.

Source : National Commission for Women



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