Mar 10, 2022
The law on abortion and Bollywood: Who needs to consent?
The movie ‘Kya Kehna’ revolves around Priya (played by Preity Zinta), an unwed teenage mother. When she finds out that she is pregnant, her family tries to convince her to abort the child. However, she decides against the abortion.
Could her family make her abort the child without her consent? Would she have needed her family’s consent, if she decided to go ahead with the abortion?
The law states that a pregnant woman’s consent is mandatory for performing an abortion. However, if the woman is below 18 years or suffering from a mental illness, her guardian’s consent is necessary for the abortion. If anyone forces a pregnant woman to have an abortion or performs one without her consent, the punishment is jail time up to 10 years and a fine. As per the law, Priya’s family could not have forced her to abort the child. Even if she had decided to go ahead with the abortion, they did not have the right to prevent her.
The law allows pregnancies to be terminated only by authorised doctors who have the necessary medical qualifications and experience. To conduct an abortion, the authorised doctor(s) must believe that:
- The pregnancy is a risk to the woman’s life, or will cause serious injury to her physical/mental health (this includes pregnancies caused by rape or unwanted pregnancies of married women); or
- There is a substantial risk that if the child is born, it will be seriously handicapped because of physical/mental abnormalities.