Forced Abortion/Pregnancy  
 
Forced Abortion
Through history, women have practised forms of birth control and abortion. These practices have generated intense moral, ethical, political and legal debates since abortion is not merely a techno-medical issue but "the fulcrum of a much broader ideological struggle in which the very meanings of the family, the state, motherhood and young women's sexuality are contested"
 
 
Abortion has stirred up raging political and legal controversies worldwide. In many countries religious and political groups refer to abortion as murder, while women’s rights advocates insist it forms part of a woman’s fundamental right to have control over her body. In India, however, such a polarization of views has been absent. In fact, there was hardly a fight when the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act legalized abortion in 1971. The law passed quietly, without any significant religious or political opposition. The Act was quite an advanced piece of legislation for its time, stipulating that abortions (up to twenty weeks of gestation) could be performed by registered medical practitioners. The passage of the Act did not seem to imply that a woman who decided to terminate her pregnancy would no longer be hindered by the law in making this choice, nor would she be forced to risk her life doing so. However, in the context of an under-funded and unaccountable health care system, much of what was envisaged during the passage of the Act failed to materialize.
 
 
To a close observer, this should not come as much of a surprise. In the political climate of that time, concern for women’s reproductive health was not a major factor in the passage of this law. In fact, it was expedited largely due to pressure from the population lobby. Notwithstanding the few people involved in the drafting process who were genuinely concerned with improving conditions for women, the main impetus behind the Act was the belief that legalizing abortion would help curb the population growth rate. Additional problems arose due to wrongful interpretation and implementation of this legislation. Even though the Act’s criteria outlining eligibility were fairly liberal, the documents used to process requests for abortion were worded in such a way as to disempower women. Medical professionals, instead of women themselves, became the primary gatekeepers of abortion. Lack of accountability kept the power in the hands of doctors with many of them interpreting the conditions of the Act in their own idiosyncratic and often restrictive ways. No systems were in place to follow up on what doctors were saying or doing. Little effort was made to increase public awareness about the fact that abortion was now legal, or to improve access for the poor and uneducated. Moreover, budgetary allocations for abortion facilities were totally inadequate, making it possible for only a handful of physicians to be trained and updated on the appropriate methods of termination for different stages of a woman’s pregnancy.
 
From a legal standpoint, however, the Act seemed to place India at the vanguard of the women’s rights movement on the issue of a woman’s right to choose the circumstances of her own childbearing. In the early 1970s, India was one of the first countries in the world to pass such a liberal abortion law. The inclusion of flexible criteria for eligibility such as "contraceptive failure" indicates that the legislation was not meant to be restrictive. In fact, the 1971 law could be seen as similar to laws in other countries which have legalized abortion on request as long as the woman is less than a designated number of weeks into her pregnancy.
 
 
Over the years, other countries legislated and implemented similar (or more liberal) laws, often in response to the vociferous advocacy of women’s groups. In India, however, very little concern about the ineffectiveness of the MTP Act was voiced by women’s organizations. This may be attributed partially to the perception that the legal battle for abortion rights was over and that efforts should be focused in other areas. More recently, many women’s organizations have been actively involved in the fight against the introduction of ‘the abortion pill’ whilst others have focused on spreading awareness about the problem of sex-selective abortions. They may have felt that fighting for access to surgical abortion was incompatible with their primary agenda of opposing particular kinds of abortion, or that making abortion more accessible in general would backfire by encouraging sex-selective abortions.
 
 
Backstreet Abortions Go On
 
 
It has now been almost 30 years since the passage of the MTP Act. Only a token number of abortions — a very tiny proportion of India’s crores of abortions that have been performed since then — were carried out safely in accordance with the Act’s provisions. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that out of the estimated 5.3 million induced abortions in India in 1989, 4.7 million were unsafe. This makes India the site of more unsafe abortions than any other country in the world. To understand the various reasons for so many women being needlessly injured or killed whilst undergoing a procedure that in most cases should be safe, many interconnected issues need to be examined.
 
 
Abortion is a subject deeply buried within the culture of silence which obscures most matters related to sexuality. The combination of the social shame surrounding abortion and the government’s failure to spearhead an awareness campaign has made it difficult for women to get accurate information. The failure of government to provide the necessary information is not surprising as it is difficult to promote a service that does not exist in most locales.
 
 
Abortion complications can be quite serious. They require an average of two days of hospitalization and a good deal of doctors’ and nurses’ time. The majority of government public health centers (PHCs) are not equipped with the basic facilities or staff to perform abortions safely, even though this is supposed to be one of the free medical services provided by them. Nevertheless they are supposed to manage the consequences of a large number of botched abortions by unqualified abortionists, resulting from the use of methods far more dangerous than D & C. According to a 1990 study done by WHO, over one quarter of the maternal morbidity in low-income countries is the result of unsafe abortion. This makes abortion blunders the single most damaging factor in women’s reproductive health. Unsafe abortion is also cited as the fourth most common factor leading to maternal mortality, following hemorrhage, indirect causes (such as malaria or anemia), and sepsis.
 
 
By the time a woman reaches the hospital after a botched abortion, she is sometimes in critical condition and often in need of a blood transfusion, which the hospital may or may not be able to provide safely. To be able to responsibly handle emergency cases, clinics and hospitals need to be in a position to give anesthesia, antibiotics, intravenous drip, or a blood transfusion, as needed.
 
  Forced Pregnancy  
 
The unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law.
 
 
It is also beginning to be adopted by some pro-Roe forces, and for very good reason: it fits like a love glove. Confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant.
 
 
Women with few economic resources, especially in India and throughout the world, have been the primary targets of population control policies. Now consider how much the wing nuts hate the term forced pregnancy.
 
  Son preference  
 
Son preference affects women in many countries, particularly in Asia. Its consequences can be anything from fetal or female infanticide to neglect of the girl child over her brother in terms of such essential needs as nutrition, basic health care and education. In China and India, some women choose to terminate their pregnancies when expecting daughters but carry their pregnancies to term when expecting sons.
 
 
According to reports from India, genetic testing for sex selection has become a booming business, especially in the country's northern regions. Indian gender-detection clinics drew protests from women's groups after the appearance of advertisements suggesting that it was better to spend $38 now to terminate a female fetus than $3,800 later on her dowry.
 
 
violence against women takes various forms such as : domestic violence, rape, trafficking in women , forced prostitution and violence in armed conflict ( such as murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy ) and honour killings, dowry related violence, female infanticide and parental sex selection in favour of male babies, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices and traditions. Women empowerment involves the building up of a society, a political environment, wherein women can breathe without the fear of oppression, exploitation, apprehension, discrimination and the general feeling of persecution which goes with being a woman in a traditionally male dominated structure.
 
     
 
 
  Copyright@ 2009 India Women Welfare Foundation