A pregnant woman can seek a legal abortion under two circumstances. First, to preserve the woman’s health, and second, in cases of fetal abnormality. However, in both these cases the doctor’s assessment for abortions is heavily relied on.
A doctor can perform an abortion only if in their medical opinion the abortion is necessary because1:
- The continuation of the pregnancy would be a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or
- The continuation of the pregnancy would cause her grave physical or mental injury.
To understand whether the health of the woman is going to be affected, the doctor is supposed to look at the environment she lived in before the abortion, and the environment she will likely live in after the abortion. The purpose of this is to assess the mental and physical health of the woman by understanding the social circumstances she will be subject to, and the repercussions she will have to face due to her decision to abort2.
If there is a high chance that the child born would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities which would leave it seriously handicapped, then the doctor can decide to allow an abortion. These abnormalities include severe cardiac problems, congenital disorders, brain anomalies and a scenario of multiple fetal abnormalities that leave the fetus with severe physical handicaps as well as fewer chances of survival1 .
Apart from these two circumstances, the law also has provisions for:
- Abortion for unwanted pregnancies of married women
- Emergency abortions
- Abortion for women suffering from mental illness
- Abortion for rape survivors
- Abortion for minors.
- Section 3(2), The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
- Section 3(3), The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971