|Introduction: Contextual introduction.|
Body: Explain some issues with Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 2021 and the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021 with respect to reproductive rights.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.
According to the latest National Family Health Survey 2019-21, 27 percent of the abortions were carried out by the woman herself at home. According to United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of World Population Report 2022, around 8 women die each day in India due to unsafe abortions. India’s reproductive rights regulatory frameworks include the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 2021 and the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021.
Issues with Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 2021:
- Abortion facilities in private medical centres are expensive, available only for those who have
the resources. Not all public health centres, especially in rural India, provide abortion facilities.
- Abortion is not allowed post 20 weeks of pregnancy except in special conditions.
- In KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India, the Supreme Court recognised women’s right to make reproductive choices as part of Article 21. But existing abortion laws do not recognise it.
- The law does not accommodate non-medical concerns of women like economic costs of raising a child, effects on career decisions, or any other personal considerations.
- The extended gestational limit is applicable to only certain categories of women.
- Additionally, it uses the word “woman”, thereby leaving out pregnant transgender and non-binary persons who are biologically capable of bearing children. It forces them to identify themselves in the gender-binary ignoring their gender identity.
Issues with Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021:
- The Act is exclusionary in nature, disregards privacy, and also exploits women’s reproductive labour.
- Only a heterosexual married couple (with certain preconditions) can be the intending parents.
- It strips the reproductive autonomy of LGBTQ+ persons and single, divorced, and widowed intending parents. It is seen as a violation to the fundamental right to equality.
- The Act requires the intending couple to declare their infertility and reveals the identity of the surrogate, both of which violate the right to privacy.
The skewed sex ratio is proof that unsafe abortions and female foeticide are rampant. There are still gaps that need fixing in both the MTP Act 2021 and the Surrogacy Act. The right to safe abortion is an important part of women’s right to bodily integrity and it needs to be protected. We should strive for inclusivity, complete bodily autonomy, and reproductive equity.