“Another commonly used argument against increasing the legal limit for abortion is the baby's right to life. At what point does the foetus become a baby, or a sentient being. Unfortunately, there is no one universally acceptable answer.” – Huffington Post
All over the world, the word “progressive” has become a compliment. People who do not jump on the all-accepting bandwagon, are normally labeled as conservative, or Republican – something that is now an insult, the opposite of progressive. The typical liberal believes abortion, defined as the elimination of a “pregnancy,” is acceptable.
There are many factors that people all over the world use to determine at which point terminating a pregnancy should be illegal, at which point it is legal, at which point it is dangerous for mother and the child, and so on. Involving all these factors results in varying laws in different countries, and when you throw progressiveness into the mix, you get laws that vary from border to border and constantly change. Such is the case in the country of India.
In India, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abbreviated the MTP act, was written in 1971. This law made India one of the first few countries to legalize abortion, under certain conditions. The conditions were that, from 1 to 12 weeks of pregnancy, an abortion could not just be had by request of the woman but a service provider had to agree to provide the abortion. From 12 to 20 weeks of pregnancy, the woman needed agreement from two different service providers. After 20 weeks, abortion was not allowed. The service provider also had to have reason to believe the birth of the child would cause serious health problems for the mother or would result in the child having detrimental health issues.
However, in late January of 2020, the Union Cabinet of India amended the MTP Act, allowing abortion before and up to 24 weeks of pregnancy which is said to especially protect and help victims of rape and incest, who usually also end up being minors and disabled women. It also states that, when there are fetal abnormalities, the gestational period is not important – the mother can get an abortion at any stage in that scenario, without specifying what those abnormalities could be.
Advocates of the amendment have called it “forward looking,” “progressive,” and favorable towards “reproductive rights.”
For those of us who believe as soon as a child is conceived it is a human being, however, we see it all very differently. For me, it hits home a little bit as well – on my birth certificate, though I am an American citizen, I am Asian and more specifically, Indian by ethnicity. Watching India slowly become more and more westernized and progressive with each visit I made over the past fifteen years has been… weird. I was not aware that they were one of the first countries to allow abortion, albeit with many rules and restrictions, and most Indian citizens were and are not aware either – though that may change soon.
While in India, I was never allowed to leave the house alone, EVER. When I did get to go out I had to have someone with me, usually a male. I remember my favorite cousin would often come to our house every day on the visit we made when I was a teenager, just so that I could leave the house with him. Even then, there were certain areas where he would not let us go. Now, I can see why. Rape is an unbelievably huge problem in the country of India.
Beautiful as the country is and as it is portrayed to be, problems run deep – and a tremendous one is rape. In 2016, there were an average of 106 cases per day and more than 32,500 cases in 2017, about 90 a day, according to the most recent government data. Of course, reporting rape is never easy or efficient. Many cases are never reported, some are exaggerated, and some are only discovered by the time a woman is already months pregnant. For a country which is trumpeting their desire to make women’s rights a greater reality, I would strongly suggest first making it a country where women feel safe to leave their homes — alone.
Pregnancies are NOT the problem. Giving women the ability to kill preborn humans is not empowerment, especially when it is contingent on the fact that they have a high chance of becoming pregnant by a man whom they do not know simply because they are walking the streets alone. Selfishness and rape are the problems. Rape is an act seen as abominable by anyone who knows it for what it is, and it is of course selfish. Often, yes, the product of rape is a child, or a “pregnancy.” And yes, the fact that a ten-year-old has to make a choice of whether or not to have a baby does not seem fair. But why, I must ask, should we treat the situation with more selfishness liberally applied? Abortion would be the second selfish act to take place.
Ending a life of another to supposedly better the life of the mother is simply another self-centered thing to do. Rape is already life-changing, life-threatening, life-altering – the trauma from the deed is something very, very few people ever get over in their lifetime. However, so is abortion. Numerous women constantly talk about and rehash their regret over getting an abortion; for example, some say they can hear their unborn child’s cry in the night. Does that not sound a lot like the PTSD people suffer from after they are raped? Does that not mean that rather than helping the situation, or “fixing” the problem, abortion tears apart the little amount of humanity, the slightest degree of happiness that might have resulted from a disgusting wrongdoing?
People in power, such as Sangeeta Rege, of the Mumbai-based Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, are even saying that abortion should be allowed at 32 weeks, according to the Thomas Reuters Foundation. The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks; this would mean abortion of a baby who now weighs roughly 3.75 pounds, is now moving around quite a bit inside the uterus, and whom one has carried for 32 weeks. Some argue that the baby is not viable, some say it is the mother’s body, her right, but I wonder, are they accurately assessing the mental, physical, and emotional repercussions of having an abortion?
According to Psychology Today, women who have an abortion are 81% more likely to have subsequent mental health problems, compared to women who have not had one. They are 138% more likely to have mental health issues than women who have given birth. They are even 55% more likely to have mental health problems compared to women who had an “unplanned” pregnancy, and still gave birth. Women with abortions in their history also have higher rates of anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, marijuana use, and suicidal behavior, compared to women who have not had an abortion. Add this to anyone’s situation, especially a situation where there is a case of rape as well, and most outcomes will be tragic for the mother. How can an illegal, despicable act such as rape, and intentional murder possibly end in permanent happiness?
Another situation which prevails is sex-selective abortion. According to “Health Issues India,” there are around 10.6 million missing women and girls, who were aborted because of their gender. In India, boys mean a paid dowry and someone to carry on the family legacy. They view raising a girl as “watering a neighbor’s plant,” to quote the words of Kanaujia, the lady who wrote the article published by Health Issues India. While sex-selective abortion is supposedly illegal, clinics reportedly still reveal the gender of the preborn baby to a parent or parents, and they are able to go to a midwife and get an illegal abortion very easily. Clinics that do this are let off with a small fine, and the staggering ratio of girls to boys continues to grow further and further apart.
A 2017 report shows that wealthy Indian families participate in the act of finding out what gender a baby is pre-birth by flying to either Thailand, Singapore, or Dubai – where it is legal to do so. Now, the number of “missing” women and girls has grown to 63 million, an average of 240,000 females being killed before they are born in India, over the span of a year. There are currently around 1.35 billion people in India, with around 51 births a minute. To put these numbers in perspective, we can assume around one baby is killed for every 5,750.01 people who are alive in the country right now. When comparing births to abortions, for every 111.69 babies who get to see “the light of day,” one does not. This is an unbelievable ratio of 1:111 – and that is just based on numbers we have. More abortions could definitely be illegally performed at home.
In summary, the MTP Amendment of January 2020 allows that, in the case of alleged rape, abortion is permitted because birth of the child would cause mental illness to the mother. This is allowed up to 24 weeks but prohibited after 24 weeks of gestation. For the first 20 weeks, and in the case of a regular pregnancy, abortion is permitted if a medical practitioner says that he has reason to believe that there would be something wrong with the child or birth would result in injury or death of the mother. In the case that the mother and her partner used protection, yet still became pregnant, abortion is permitted, because birth would cause mental health problems for the mother. The Amended MTP Bill raised the upper gestational limit, yet Indians are pushing for full-term abortion and remain unsatisfied with the new allowances the bill has granted them.
This ignores the actual cause of most pregnancies, and thereby, abortions, as well as highlights insensitivity to the sanctity of life.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.