Frequently Asked Questions on Abortions

Is abortion even legal in India?

Yes. And yes, this is unlike many developed countries where abortion is a controversial subject often involving political ideologies. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971 allows for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) till 20 weeks of conception. Here’s what you should know:

  • An MTP within 12 weeks of pregnancy can be performed with the approval of one doctor.
  • An MTP between 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy can be performed if two doctors concur.
  • A woman can seek an abortion if
    • Her health (physical and mental) is at risk because of the pregnancy.
    • The foetus has abnormalities that may lead to deformities and risks later.
    • The pregnancy is the result of rape.
    • The pregnancy is unintended and caused by the failure of contraception (pregnancy happened even though one or more methods of contraception were used). It is important to note that this clause applies only to married women.
  • The abortion must be performed by a registered medical practitioner (RMP), whose credentials are as approved under the act, in a place that is approved under the act. Any RMP cannot perform an abortion.

Can I get an abortion if I am below 18?

Yes, an underage girl can get an abortion as long as the conditions in the law are met. In such an abortion though, the girl’s guardian’s consent is mandatory. The MTP Act defines guardian as “a person having the care of the person of a minor or a lunatic”.

Can an unmarried woman get an abortion?

Abortions in India, while legal, are driven by the concern for the health of the woman and the foetus. The failure of contraception, for example, is a clause mentioned specifically for married women. An unmarried woman, like the married one, can seek an abortion for health reasons and also if she does not want to carry the pregnancy caused to her as a result of sexual assault. She, however, is not expected to ask for abortion if a condom broke during intercourse. Does that mean unmarried women do not get abortions in India? Thankfully, that is not the case.

The clause on health risks for the woman reads thus: the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health. Thus, if the doctor looks at the unwanted pregnancy as one that would cause grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman, he/she would approve the abortion.

Do I need my husband’s consent for getting an abortion?

No. If you are 18 or above, you do not need anyone’s consent.

Is abortion not allowed after the 20-week limit?

It is not, as per law. However, if necessary, you may approach the courts. Such a request must have solid grounds though. Last year, the SC allowed abortions after the 20-week period because of health risks to the women or serious deformities to the foetus. SC has declined other requests too where it did not find any risk to the life of the woman and the foetus.

What are the various types of abortion?

By medicines

Typically within 7 weeks: A MTP kit is used which contains one tablet for oral consumption and four tablets for vaginal insertion.

A medical abortion uses a combination of two hormonal drugs – an anti-progesterone and prostaglandin, which can be used through various routes namely by mouth, by injection intramuscularly/intravenously or vaginally.

By surgical means

Typically within 12 weeks: The pregnancy is terminated using a method called suction curettage, which involves the insertion of a small tube in the vagina which is connected to a suction machine. The pregnancy is sucked out in this method.

Typically between 12 weeks and 20 weeks: The method deployed at this time is called dilation and evacuation (D&E). A cervix dilator is inserted in the cervix in order to open it up gently. Once it is dilated, the pregnancy is removed using a suction tube and other surgical instruments.

What can I expect after abortion?

Pain is something everyone experiences differently. Abortion follows some immediate bleeding. You can expect cramps for a couple of days. Your doctor will prescribe medicines to get you some relief.

Do not ignore a fever or any foul-smelling discharge from the vagina; these may be indications of an infection. See your doctor for the slightest discomfort. You may also want to visit your doctor in two weeks to ensure you are in good health. Make yourself important.

When can I begin having sex after having had an abortion?

Your body is smarter than you know. It will self-heal. You will know when you are comfortable physically and emotionally to begin intercourse. Some doctors may advise abstaining for a week or two.

When will I get my periods next?

You can expect your periods within three to six weeks after the abortion. The abortion often accompanies bleeding, and sometimes, this bleeding may last a week or so. This bleeding is not the same as your menstrual period. Your first period after the abortion is likely to accompany more severe cramps than you usually experience.

Writer : Anuradha calls herself an overthinker. Besides being a closet poet, she writes on matters that intrigue or move her. She is the co-founder of Dehaat, a niche art brand that brings forth the work of artists from India’s rustic belts of culture. She is also closely associated with the discussion platform LoudST and moderates its panel discussions.

8 comments Add a comment

  1. My girlfriend is 8 week pregnant can we do abortion please suggest we are very scared i already done ultrasound.

  2. I am 27 and ummarried. I am 5 weeks 6 days pregnant. I don’t want this pregnancy. Will I be able to get an abortion?

  3. I am 6 weeks pregnant and unmarried. Can I get an abortion surely? What are the chances of incomplete abortion?

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