ABORTION *T&C Applied

Anti-abortion laws in America recently, have taken the world by a storm. Abortion has been legal in America since the 1973. Roe v. Wade ruling provided access to safe and legal abortions as a constitutional right. Right from the beginning, anti-abortions groups have continuously attempted to undermine this ruling. In light of this, following Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi and Kentucky, the near total ban in Alabama has been the most extreme and sweeping law that has been passed in recent memory. Challenging the constitution, anti-abortion politicians have, once again, highlighted how women are undermined and not even included in the policy making decisions, especially when the law is about the bodies of the women.

Abortion has been legal in America since the 1973. Roe v. Wade ruling provided access to safe and legal abortions as a constitutional right … the near total ban in Alabama has been the most extreme and sweeping law that has been passed in recent memory.”

The law not only bans all abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal viability, this would also see doctors who perform an abortion facing up to 99 years in prison.

Fact: THIS IS 89 MORE YEARS THAN SOMEONE CONVICTED OF RAPE.

After Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri soon followed with severe bans on abortion after six and eight weeks respectively. In contrast to this drive to ban or heavily limit options for abortion, the Democratic-led states have made a conscious decision to bring abortion to the forefront and make rights, safe abortion avenues and making it more accessible. This year Illinois became the third state, after New York and Vermont, to ensure that abortion remains legal even if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade ruling.

The proposition of this bill had more than 500 #StopTheBans demonstrations spearheaded by several abortion rights groups and liberal organizations including American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). Taking the streets with slogans screaming “Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a right.” The fact that 25 men decided that they can make a law that directly questions not only the democratic rights of the women, but also questions their own understanding of their biology and strips them of planned parenthood entirely, is what the people have been protesting against.

Taking the streets with slogans screaming “Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a right.” The fact that 25 men decided that they can make a law that directly questions their democratic rights and their own understanding of their biology is what people have been protesting against”

This wave of laws and amendments has forced women to come out and express why it has to be a decision that only they should make, and it has also intrinsically linked abortion to politics and what has become obvious is the lack of women policy makers and a lack of understanding of women’s issues.

Protestors participate in a rally on May 19, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo: Getty Images)

When you look at India, before 1971, abortion was a criminal offence under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, except in cases when it was necessary to save the woman’s live, labelling it as deliberately “causing miscarriage”. After the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill was passed in 1971, this allowed for stipulations such as health risk, possibility of substantial risk of serious physical handicap to the child, rape and risk for the mental health of the woman and made abortion available up to 20 weeks of gestation. Despite this, according to an article by The Lancet Global Health , it is estimated that 15.6 million abortions take place in India every year, and a majority of these are unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion is the third largest cause of maternal morality leading to the death of 10 women each day. There’s also the fact that even though abortions are supposed to be legal, accessibility wise abortion clinics have been decreasing and in anti-choice states they are often not even covered by state or private health insurance. In India, we also have the stigma attached to abortion, especially when it comes to unmarried and underage women seeking access to safe abortions.

“It is estimated that 15.6 million abortions take place in India every year, and a majority of these are unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion is the third largest cause of maternal morality leading to the death of 10 women each day.”

Seeing the rise of unsafe abortion seekers and the result, the Government took cognizance of the challenges faced by women and proposed four major amendments to the MTP law:

  • To increase the base of legal MTP providers and ensure better access to safe and legal abortions.
  • To increase the gestation period. This amendment was proposed on the basis that it takes more than the initial 20 weeks for medical practitioners to detect severe fetal abnormalities.
  • Increasing access to legal abortion services for women
  • Changing the indication to include unmarried women and to make more women aware of what MTP rights they have access to.
“Amend the Bill to include increase in abortion clinics, to amend the minimum time of 20 weeks, to make services safe and to provide legal abortions for unmarried women as well”

Despite the proposition of these amendments, the most important point raised was the gestation period. Appealed for by rape and sexual assault victims, this area specially needs amendment because the victims of any kind of sexual abuse might not discover the unwanted pregnancy till 24 weeks at least. Due to this negative aura that has been created around unwanted pregnancies and the idea of abortion as murder,what becomes apparent is the lack of female presence and female’s perspective when it comes to making laws about women’s bodies and their choices in our country. To challenge this notion, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, in his Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill, 2018, proposed that instead of being called the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, it should now be known as Legal Termination of Pregnancy Act so there is no mistake of understanding that the woman herself holds autonomy over her body and decisions related to her body. As a first step towards realizing women’s rights and respecting the their choice regarding sexual intercourse, menstrual health and unplanned or forced pregnancies, the Bill raises a strong voice in favor of women’s sexual autonomy, menstrual hygiene and abortion rights. There’s an apparent and glaring divide between men and women, and to have policy makers who will never actually experience the changes of pregnancy, what is needed the most is the inclusion for female policy makers, health care providers and even mobilization to educate as to how unsafe illegal abortions can be.

Due to this negative aura that has been created around unwanted pregnancies and the idea of abortion as murder,what becomes apparent is the lack of female presence and female’s perspective when it comes to making laws about women’s bodies and their choices in our country.

Photo: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30453-9/fulltext

Dr. Shashi Tharoor’s proposed Women’s Rights Bill: What and How

In an unprecedented move, Dr. Shashi Tharoor recently tabled a private bill in Lok Sabha titled Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill 2018 and recommended more freedom for women with respect to their “inherent right to their sexual and reproductive choices.”

Not only is this a bold move, but also of utmost importance because it creates space and possibility to finally come out and address issues like female sexuality and desire, reproduction by choice and menstrual issues. India has never really been so openly vocal about any of these, especially in terms of creating a discourse from the female perspective.

Dr. Tharoor explained the importance of the Bill while introducing it in the Lok Sabha stating, “the existing laws fail to recognise ‘woman’ as an individual capable of making her own choices, specifically her sexual choices as a wife and her reproductive choices when pregnant.” For the first time in the history of Indian politics, Dr. Shashi Tharoor visibilized the existence of rape within marriage.

Sexual Rights in the Bill:

  • The Bill proposes the deletion of Exception 2 to Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape. In the past few years, we have seen this law fail to protect victims of marital rape. Dr. Tharoor’s Bill highlights the importance of consent even if the relationship is legally binding and the woman is of age.
  • Additionally, it was specified that under Explanation 2 of Section 375 of Indian Penal Code such as “the women’s ethnicity, religion, caste, education, profession, clothing preference, entertainment preference, social circle, personal opinion, past sexual conduct or any other related grounds shall not be a reason to presume her consent to the sexual activity.”, propagating a shift from the masculine understanding of ‘no means yes’ and ‘yes means yes’ ideology.

Reproductive Rights in the Bill:

  • The Bill proposes that instead of being called the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, it should now be known as Legal Termination of Pregnancy Act so there is no mistake of understanding that the woman herself holds autonomy over her body and decisions related to her body.
  • The Bill also advocates an intense study and removal of any ambiguities so that medical practitioners in rural areas especially do not feel unsafe and in fear of criminalization because of Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code that penalizes anyone, even the mother herself, for voluntarily terminating pregnancies.
  • After discussing several possible amendments about the right to abortion in the bill, what is highlighted is that until the 12th week a woman is to be given absolute right to terminate if they wish. Additionally, conditional termination of pregnancy should be avaible to women until he 20th week of their pregnancy.
  • Though the Bill still retains that if a Medical Practitioner recommends termination due to any risk for the mother, the Bill is a huge win for feminists in India because it doesn’t trivialize their choice of either not giving birth or planned parenthood.

Menstrual Rights in the Bill:

  • Statistics show that only 18% women in India have access to sanitary hygiene. An amendment to Right to Education Act was also proposed to make free distribution of sanitary napkins to girl students in schools and colleges and ensure that their health is not being compromised.
  • Further, the Bill also proposes that every public institutions should ensure adequate supply, storage and distribution of sanitary products to be given free of costs.

Dr. Tharoor’s Bill is laudable not just because it breaks the taboo that outnumbers health, choice and priorities and trivializes issues that women face when they are prematurely forced into pregnancy, when they do not have access to sanitary necessities and where their consent is always labeled dubious. It is necessary for the welfare state to provide not only basic resources but also to incorporate knowledge, agenda and concerns of the other sex.

As a first step towards realizing women’s rights and respecting the their choice regarding sexual intercourse, menstrual health and unplanned or forced pregnancies, the Bill raises a strong voice in favor of women’s sexual autonomy, menstrual hygiene and abortion rights.

The Disaster of Denmark

With the vision that the world has of Denmark, it comes as a surprise that only one is six Danes consider themselves to be ‘feminists’. This was announced as a result of a poll conducted by YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project of more than 25,000 people in 23 major countries, targeting Denmark as one of the candidates because of its narrow gender pay gap, equal employment rights, and universal nursery care.
In a global survey of attitudes of gender, equal rights for both men and women and the importance and wide-spread reach of the #MeToo movement to come out and encourage women to share their voice and stories of harassment, that Denmark is one of the least feminist countries in the world.

This project was conducted three years after the country’s equality minister and member of the party Venstre, Karen Ellemann, said she did not consider herself to be a feminist. The project also found that only two out of five Danes supported the #MeToo movement and only 4% of men and 8% of women questioned in the survey had a ‘favorable’ view of the #MeToo movement. Some even raised challenges like they believed #MeToo would make men feel constrained in their relationships with women. Sara Phil was noted saying “I think some men are afraid of talking to women at work, in case they get accused of something.”

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Breaking taboos, a film based on menstruation has just won an Oscar

Breaking taboos, a film based on menstruation has just won an Oscar. Period. End of Sentence, a documentary that tackles the stigma around menstruation in rural India, is available on Netflix.

The 26-minute film revolves around a group of women who use a new machine in order to create low-cost sanitary pads so that women in their village can be financial independent and at the same time improve their feminine hygiene.

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