In India, though abortion has been legalized since 1971, illegal and unsafe abortions are very common due to various reasons.
Legal abortion: implies termination of pregnancy by trained provider in Government approved health facility for the purpose and fulfilling the conditions mentioned in the Medical Termination Act.
Illegal abortion: implies termination of pregnancy by trained provider violating the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
Unsafe abortion: implies interference of pregnancy by persons without the necessary knowledge and skills, or in conditions that are not conducive to good health. It can be within or outside of the law.
Apart from the woman who die due to post-abortion complications, there are many more who survive but have to live with chronic health problems, and in many cases infertility.
Unsafe abortions are commoner among adolescents as they are easier to access, in terms of convenience of location and confidentiality (of prime importance in the case of unmarried girls or those who have been coerced or raped).
India was one of the first countries in the world to legalize induced abortion under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1972). It is estimated that each year nearly 6 million abortions are performed outside the ambit of the Act. Several categories of providers ranging from qualified providers (unregistered) to non-allopathic practitioners, paramedics or even traditional dais, offer these services on demand, often jeopardizing the life of the woman. Unfortunately many facilities offer both sex determination and abortion services despite legislation to the contrary (Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques, Regulation and Prevention of Misuse Act, 1994). Sex selective abortion is prohibited legally, though abortion is accepted and legally permitted.
Most sexually active adolescents are in their late adolescence. Lack
of contraceptives use characterizes the vast majority of sexual encounter
among youth. Incidences of unintended teenage pregnancies and abortions
have shown a steady increase. Unsafe abortions are a major source of
reproductive mortality and morbidity.
Extensive practice of sex selective abortions is a chilling indicator of gender discrimination and the unequal status of women in society. Overwhelming majority of these abortions is being sought from illegal sources.
To address the growing problem of sex selective abortions, the following steps should be taken, at the minimum:
- 60, 00, 000 Indian women a year still resort to illegal abortions.
- Accounts for up to 13% of all maternal deaths and 50% of all maternal deaths in the 15-19 age groups.
- 38% - 68% of abortion complications are in women under 20 yeas of age.
Factors influencing unsafe abortions