Legal but not always safe: Three decades of liberal abortion policy in India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, which permits abortion on a wide range of medical and social grounds, greatly liberalized access to pregnancy termination in India. Over 30 years after its enactment, however, unsafe abortion remains a significant problem. Despite the existence of a seemingly liberal abortion policy, important deficiencies in its implementation have led to an unusual situation in which legality cannot be equated with safety. Poor access to certified abortion providers, inadequacies in the quality of legal services, lack of awareness of legislation at the community level, and socio-cultural factors have all contributed to the continued predominance of unsafe abortion in India. Recent research and advocacy, however, are paving the way for legislative reform that may put legality on a par with safety. The recent introduction of new abortion methods, such as manual vacuum aspiration and medical abortion, are also likely to increase access to safe abortion.