In light of International Safe Abortion Day on September 28, the Center for Reproductive Rights has released a new factsheet on the latest changes to the abortion law in India.
In 2021, the Parliament of India passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act, which sought to reform India’s abortion law enacted in 1971. That law, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP Act) provided an exemption from criminal liability of “causing miscarriage” by allowing abortion in limited circumstances.
Abortion in India
- 44% of the 48.5 million pregnancies that occur annually in India are unintended.
- Approximately 16 million (77%) of these unintended. pregnancies result in abortion.
- 800,000 unsafe abortions occur in India every year, with 10% resulting in maternal deaths.
The Amendment—which increases gestational limits, grounds, and procedures to access abortion care—was passed in response to demands to make safe, quality abortion more accessible.
The Center’s new factsheet provides details and analyses of the key changes in the Amendment, which include:
- Increasing the medical abortion timeline to nine weeks of gestation.
- Increasing the gestational limit during which abortion can be carried out from 20 to 24 weeks for specific categories of persons.
- Allowing abortion in cases of substantial foetal anomaly post 24 weeks.
- Allowing unmarried women to access abortion on the ground of “failure of contraception.”
- The establishment of medical boards to determine abortion access post-24 weeks.
“While the MTP Amendment Act brought much-needed reforms to the existing abortion law, it continues to restrict abortion access and creates additional barriers,” said Brototi Dutta, the Center’s Advocacy Advisor, for India. “And despite the passage of the Amendment, abortion in India is still not decriminalized. We will continue to advocate to fully decriminalize abortion and to increase access to services for all pregnant persons, including those who are marginalized and most vulnerable.”
Using the international human rights law framework, the Center’s factsheet analyzes the gaps and missed opportunities of the latest law reform. The law continues to lack a rights-based approach rooted in decriminalization of abortion and poses new challenges by introducing additional third-party authorization such as by medical boards, particularly for persons from marginalized backgrounds.