Termination of Pregnancy and Abortion in India

Information on who can seek an abortion in India and the procedure involved…

Abortion has been legal in India since 1971, when the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed. The law is quite liberal, as it aims to reduce illegal abortion and maternal mortality. An abortion can be performed in India until the 20th week of pregnancy. The opinion of a second doctor is required if the pregnancy is past its 12th week. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was amended in 2002 and 2003 to allow doctors to provide mifepristone and misoprostol (also known as the “morning-after pill”) on prescription up until the seventh week of pregnancy. An abortion is permitted in the following cases:
  • A woman has a serious disease and the pregnancy could endanger her life
  • A woman’s physical or mental health is endangered by the pregnancy
  • The foetus has a substantial risk of physical or mental handicap
  • A woman contracts rubella (German measles) during the first three months of pregnancy
  • Any of a woman’s previous children had congenital abnormalities
  • The foetus is suffering from RH disease
  • The foetus has been exposed to irradiation
  • The pregnancy is the result of rape
  • A woman’s socio-economic status may hamper a healthy pregnancy
  • A contraceptive device failed
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed amendments to The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill in 2014. The proposed changes would allow healthcare providers to perform an abortion between 20 and 24 weeks under certain conditions.

Permission

  • If a woman is married, her own written consent is sufficient. Her husband’s consent is not required
  • If a woman is unmarried and over 18, she can provide her own written consent
  • If a woman is unmarried and under 18, she must provide written consent from her guardian
  • If a woman is mentally unstable, she must provide written consent from her guardian

Procedure

Abortions can be performed in any medical institution that is licensed by the government to perform medically assisted terminations of pregnancy. Such institutions must display a certificate issued by the government. Abortions must be performed by a doctor with one of the following qualifications:
  • A registered medical practitioner who has performed at least 25 medically assisted terminations of pregnancy
  • A surgeon who has six months’ experience in obstetrics and gynaecology
  • A person who has a diploma or degree in obstetrics and gynaecology
  • A doctor who was registered before the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and who has three years’ experience in obstetrics and gynaecology
  • A doctor who registered after 1971 and has been practising in obstetrics and gynaecology for at least a year
The best way to find a gynaecologist is through personal recommendations or by visiting the gynaecology and obstetrics department of a reputed private hospital or clinic. Indian society is quite conservative and pre-marital sex is taboo. Unmarried women seeking an abortion may be confronted by medical staff with hostile attitudes.

Family Planning Organisations

The Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (National Population Stabilisation Fund) is an autonomous body of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It provides information on family planning, the surgical options for terminating a pregnancy, and sexual and infant health.