In Focus

Free women need ‘consent’ from husband, family for MTP

By Manu Shrivastava

The MTP Act gives an ‘adult’ woman complete autonomy and authority to decide if, and when, she wants to undergo abortion. It is only at the explicit will of the woman, and no other, that a doctor can perform abortion within the legally-permitted time.

The Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgment had said, “A woman’s freedom of choice whether to bear a child or abort her pregnancy are areas which fall in the realm of privacy.” However, in reality, doctors ask for express consent from husbands or families or father of the child (in case of pregnancies outside wedlock) before performing the abortion.

The MTP Act clearly provides for protection of the identity of the woman. However, most government and private hospitals disregard privacy completely. The doctors and the staff are prejudiced and outright careless in terms of protecting the identity of the woman.

In most facilities, government or private even in reputed facilities, the paperwork generated as a prerequisite to any MTP procedure are easily accessed by any staff, when making inquiries or between personnel from other departments even during procedures such as conducting an Ultrasound of the uterus. There are absolutely no precautions taken to uphold the patient’s privacy.

Despite provisions in the law, a woman’s reproductive rights are not recognised by the very administrators of the law.

The entire procedure of an abortion is traumatising for a woman and has lasting effects. It becomes more difficult and trying for a woman who seeks abortion of a pregnancy outside wedlock. The prejudice that is ingrained in society surfaces through people who ‘administer’ law at every step. Hospital staff, doctors, chemists even pharmacists.

It is important to grant reproductive rights to a woman in the complete sense. Safe abortions and reproductive rights can be assured by talking about abortions, safe sex, pre-marital sex and removing the stigma associated.