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    The 4 Basic Facts Every Woman In India Should Know About Abortion

    It's completely legal and has been for almost 50 years.

    1. Abortion is legal.

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    Abortion is legal in India and has been for almost 50 years under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Considered one of the more liberal laws on abortion in the world, termination of pregnancy is legal up to 20 weeks after conception, just as long as it is provided by a registered medical practitioner at a registered facility. According to the Act, a woman can get an abortion under certain conditions. These conditions include:

    – If the continuation of the pregnancy poses a risk to her life or her physical or mental health.

    – If the foetus is suffering from severe abnormalities.

    – If the pregnancy is a resulting of contraceptive failure (this only applies to married women, though).

    – If the pregnancy has resulted from rape.

    2. But doctors have the final say. It is not the right of every woman.

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    While abortion is legal, it isn't a right every woman can exercise. Abortions are provided solely at the discretion of the doctors. In cases of abortions within the first trimester (12 weeks), one doctor needs to sign off. In the second trimester (between 12-20 weeks), a woman needs the sign-off from two doctors.

    This is particularly difficult in rural and remote parts of the country where, often, finding even one doctor can be challenging.

    3. The consent of the husband or the family, however, is also NOT required.

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    Very often, doctors will ask a woman to get consent from her husband or her family before going ahead with an abortion procedure. Rooted in patriarchy, such thinking challenges a woman’s autonomy and agency over her own body. It perpetuates the belief that she alone should not make decisions about if, when and how many children she wants to have.

    However, according to the MTP Act, in order to perform an abortion, a doctor only needs the consent of the woman and no one else.

    4. The Right to Privacy judgment applies not just to Aadhaar, but to abortion as well.

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    The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark 9-bench judgment in August 2017, ruled that the right to privacy was a "guaranteed fundamental right" for all citizens in the country. In an extremely progressive move, the judgment also specifically addressed women’s sexual and reproductive rights. In its statement on abortion the bench said, "a woman’s freedom of choice whether to bear a child or abort her pregnancy are areas which fall in the realm of privacy".

    What women choose to do with their body, is their decision and theirs alone. Following the cue from the Supreme Court, women in India must be empowered to exercise their choices.

    Tarini Warner is a senior associate at Global Health Strategies (GHS). GHS works on key public health issues around the world such as sexual and reproductive health, child health, tuberculosis and nutrition, and has offices in Nairobi, New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and New Delhi.

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