The moral and ethical debate surrounding a woman’s right over her own body and the rights of an unborn baby has been playing out in various permutations and combinations throughout history. Like all issues, the question has taken religious and political notions with time.
The question captured public imagination again with Arkansas bringing out an apparently Pro-life law that allows a woman’s husband to sue her if she gets an abortion even if it involves marital rape. The very right over one's own body has been taken away. The moment an individual’s right over the very basic physical existence is taken away, the moral essence of life gets snatched away too.
In India, things have taken a different turn. By the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is not a right. The ball is more in the doctor’s court and it is his/her discretion that matters. If the doctor is of the opinion, taken in “good faith”, that continuing the pregnancy involves substantial risks for the physical and mental health of the mother, or that the foetus has serious anomalies, only then will the procedure be carried out.
In India, the issue has another dimension to be considered - ‘The Great Indian Bureaucratic Tangle’. Last year, the papers were filled with news about a rape victim who couldn't get an abortion as a result of a delay in government proceedings. Since, in India, an abortion can be carried out only up until the twentieth week of pregnancy, the Indian bureaucracy ensured that the proceedings went on for beyond that time period and the victim bore a child she never wanted. A dimension ‘very unique’ to India!
Internationally, the scenario changed with the Roe vs. Wade case which legalized abortion. In the much acclaimed soft economics book, ‘Freakonomics’ which discussed the entire gang war, the Klu Klux Khan fell post the law. As per the theory, the legalization of abortion prevented the birth and raising of children in subaltern regions and in criminal backgrounds.
In Mexico, the abortion appeal by a 12-year-old was turned down by a pro-life system.
Pro-life activists argue in favour of having the child. A means of conquering the rape. But a notion glorified by a certain section cannot be pushed forward and the ultimate idea codified in law. In a world increasingly calling for individual rights and freedom, no group has the gall to call for preventing abortion. It adds to the trauma of a rape victim to bear a child which is the result of a hate crime. The onus should be on the victim to decide. It is for the victim to decide and move ahead. Compelling all to a common law is taking away their basic rights over their bodies which are already violated by the rapist.
It is time to rethink, restructure, and reinvent our legal and moral infrastructure to align with common good and all vantage points.