Undeniably, coronavirus pandemic has brought forth a catastrophic effect all over the world, and that effect in no time turned chauvinistic when lockdowns came into force. In India, abortion became a subject of apprehension as well as a fretful issue for women, but rural ones are the prevalent victims of this health-cum-sociological issue. Simply put, the lockdown is blindly parading upon the pain of women no matter how much more sorrowing upshots it can result in afterwards. Not to forget, unsafe abortions are the third chief cause of maternal demises in India.
A 12-year-old girl, who got pregnant owing to sexual assault, strived to avail medical facilities and to reach courts for the termination of her pregnancy in the middle of the merciless lockdown which prohibits any movement. This instance is not only one of its kinds, according to reports; around 18.5 lakh women are likely to have no access to abortion facilities. It is something which was foreseeable and probable to happen, at the time of putting the country on lockdown by virtue of the pandemic. In fact, the Guttmacher Institute, in its research assessed the potential impact of the pandemic in a sexual and reproductive context which was very much alike to the current circumstance. Interestingly, identical gendered responses were of the previous pandemics like Ebola and Zika, which institutes the entire line of reasoning that why the Indian government did not strategise for these predictable tortuous repercussions of COVID-19.
Above all, I personally am of the opinion that abortion is a human right which no one can stamp down on, but if it cannot be treated like one, then it should be given more moderation. The foremost step to do so goes through the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP) that spells out the very duration in which the pregnancy should be avoided, and the current one is 20 weeks or 24 weeks (only in distinctive cases including rape, sexual assault, etc.) after getting the sanction of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 by the Parliament. Prior to the passing of bill the limit was only twenty weeks be it a case of exception. Though the bill has now mitigated the women’s reproductive rights’ rigidity, a need is yet there for creating an effectual law apparatus which takes into consideration not only the legal dynamic but also the subjectivity of one’s situation at the instant of accounting one. For instance, women on account of the lockdown were not able to visit their hometowns where they would feel safe while getting an abortion and thus crossing the authorised limit for the termination of pregnancy. Several pregnant women in their 18th or 19th week sought to consult the doctors but because of the closure of nearby clinics, crossed the 20th week. On the contrary, twenty weeks is the maximum limit for termination of pregnancy since conception as per the MTP, or I shall put down as its inadequacy to analyse and estimate the women’s reproductive problems in an all-inclusive means.
In my judgment, a special exception should have been established or what I intend to propose: should be made for perilous times like these, which would permit the woman to terminate her pregnancy even after twenty weeks and/or to a reasonable amount of time. So that she could, without seeking permission from the courts, approach for the needful whilst being effortless as then the doctors would also not be questioning and refusing her even if they have a pinch of qualm in doing so. In a lamentable manner, being a female has been proved a privation in this pandemic.
One’s body is one’s property, and any discretion related to it should be of one. – Ritik Gupta