India likely to soon raise upper abortion limit to 24 weeks

By Dave Andrusko

The Union Cabinet of India announced today that it had approved a bill that would extend the upper limit for abortions from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. According to the Mayo Clinic’s “Pregnancy week by week,” at 24 weeks “your baby’s skin is wrinkled, translucent and pink to red because of visible blood in the capillaries. By now your baby might be about 8 inches (210 millimeters) long from crown to rump and weigh more than 1 1/3 pounds (630 grams).”

The rationales offered by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar to the media for this “progressive reform and giving reproductive rights to women” started with “help[ing] survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women)” before adding “because in first 5 months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn’t realise [she is pregnant] and has to go to court.”

“The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020” would also “reduce maternal mortality,” Javadekar claimed.

The Hindustan Times concluded its wholly uncritical story (largely quotes from Javadekar and from a statement), “The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy, stated the Union Cabinet.”

Javadekar’s justifications fall apart with even a cursory examination. India already has one of the highest abortion rates in the world (47 per 1,000 women aged 15–49).

A 2017 report in the Guttmacher Institute quoted from a study in The Lancet Global Health which found “15.6 million abortions were performed in the country in 2015.”

And India is battling sex-selective abortion which is rampant.

A report [www.pop.org/sex-selective-abortion-in-india] published by the Population Research Institute found that

In India, we have found that approximately 15.8 million girls have gone ‘missing’ at birth due to sex-selective abortion since 1990. Due to varying assumptions on what the expected sex ratio at birth should be in the absence of sex selection, however, the actual number of sex-selective abortions in India could range from as low as 11.1 million to as high as 20.2 million. [Underlining added.]

Moreover, as research has demonstrated repeatedly, abortion does not reduce maternal mortality.  What does?

A study conducted on behalf of the Chilean Maternal Mortality Research Initiative covering 50 years of maternal mortality data (1957-2007) from Chile’s National Institute of Statistics found that “Educating women enhances women’s ability to access existing health care resources, including skilled attendants for childbirth, and directly leads to a reduction in her risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth.”

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will be introduced in the next session of the Parliament.