Know about South Korean Abortion laws and a gist of problems with India’s updated abortion laws
A historical decision sparked in South Korea as it legalizes abortion within 14 weeks without any reason. Giving all the rights to women to choose motherhood, now, women at South Korea can terminate the pregnancy within 14 weeks without reasoning as announced by the South Korean Ministry of Justice, on Wednesday.
Since 1953, there was an abortion ban been in effect even in the country’s Criminal Code. In 1973, it was amended permitting abortion in the case of rape, health risks, risks for hereditary or communicable diseases, incest and so on. As per the 2019 reports, South Korean Constitutional Court ordered for revision of anti-abortion laws. Now, with the new law being released, voluntary termination is legal within 14 weeks and termination can also be possible on medical grounds within 24 weeks.
Now, this is a win-win situation for women in South Korea as they can have got a right to choose motherhood. Now, let’s look at legalities for abortion in India.
The existing abortion laws in India makes abortion legal in certain circumstances. It is legal to perform abortion on various grounds until 20 weeks of pregnancy and in exceptional conditions, in allowance of court, it can be extended to 24 weeks.
Where this is the existing law, in March this year, the new Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2020 (MTP Bill) was passed in Lok Sabha but it is yet to be discussed in Rajya Sabha. Amid the COVID Crisis, it is still on hold. According to the bill, it regulates the condition under which pregnancy may be aborted and also presents to increase the time period of carrying out abortion.
The present laws require opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks and 2 doctors if it is terminated within 12-20 weeks of conception. The bill now allows the termination of pregnancy on the advice of a doctor up to 20 weeks and with the advice of the medical board of doctors including a gynaecologist, paediatrician and radiologist, within 20-24 weeks. While this bill has been declared as progressive and liberal in many sense by the government, there are several unaddressed issues in the proposed amendments.
1. The Bill absolutely ignores the right of a person to terminate pregnancy if they want to. It doesn’t give agency to women to choose for terminating pregnancy if they want to.
2. Now, as it mentions the requirement of a medical board, it doesn’t specify anywhere about how can a medical board be accessed. There is no mention of any financial support to the women for such a medical procedure. In fact the whole procedure is not very defined as of yet.
3. The upper limit for termination of pregnancy is 24 months in exceptional cases for vulnerable women including cases like incest, rape, women with disability, minor etc. But it ignores the conditions of other vulnerable communities like migrant workers, trans, no binaries etc.
4. The bill allows termination of pregnancy to women if they wish to, to some extent but it fails to extend the same rights to trans, intersex, and non-binaries.
The act, MPT is required in India in the first place because India still criminalizes abortion to a certain extent and hence, at every point, it required doctor’s consultation to discontinue pregnancy. Here, what is required is the formation of a law which is not doctor centric but gives full autonomy to people to choose for her pregnancy. Also, access to safe abortion is a fundamental human right, the new laws must also ensure that no person is forced for unsafe abortion or continuation of unsafe pregnancy.
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