ABORTION LAWS (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Indian Society)

News-CRUX-10     11th April 2024        

Context: The Supreme Court of Arizona in the United States delivered a landmark decision, reviving a long-dormant law from 1864 that bans nearly all abortions in the state.

Revival of a Civil War-era law in USA

  • Historical Roots: Dating back to the American Civil War (1861-65), a law prohibits individuals from providing, supplying, or administering substances to induce miscarriage in pregnant women, unless it's to save her life.
  • Historical Context: Enacted before Arizona's statehood (1912) and the advent of women's suffrage in the state (effectively 1914), this law's enforcement was halted by a Tucson court shortly after the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision.

Abortion Law in India

  • Background: In the 1960s, the Union government constituted the Shantilal Shah Committee to prepare a draft for the legalisation of abortion in India.
  • Enactment of MTP Act: In 1971, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was enacted to reduce maternal mortality due to unsafe abortions.
  • Gestation Limit: The MTP Act set an upper limit of the gestation period to which a woman can seek a medical abortion to 20 weeks.
  • Qualified Practitioners: Abortion is to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics.
  • Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): A person who "voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry" will be jailed for up to 3 years or fined or both.
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 2021: The Act extends the permissible termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, providing women with a longer gestation period for making this choice.
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