Disability-Selective Abortions: Missteps Marring an Otherwise Progressive Outlook of a Regressive Society

Debby Jain
Law Centre-1, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, India

Volume III, Issue II, 2020

Abortion has come to be claimed as a matter of women’s right, particularly, in disability-selective cases. While the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 provides for instances where termination of pregnancy would be permissible, unsolicited termination of a foetus is a crime. This is an implicit recognition of an unborn child’s ‘right to life’ and those that flow therefrom, including the right to live with dignity. An unethical demand to permit abortion in disability-selective cases has been witnessed, claiming right to reproductive choice. It is posited that a woman does not have an unqualified right to abort her child, diagnosed with disability or not, regardless of recent developments in law conferring on her a right to privacy and to bodily integrity. Sufficient safeguards exist in the MTPA to keep unsolicited abortions in check. To prevent women from relying on quacks for abortion, the Union Cabinet recently approved the MTP (Amendment) Bill 2020 which seeks to raise the upper-limit of termination of pregnancy from 20 to 24 weeks. With regard to disability, the Parliament enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 to confer socio-legal insurance on those with disabilities. The same should be read as protecting unborn children with disabilities in light of fundamental principle of non-exclusivity with respect to discrimination. Best interests of the child should govern the matter of abortion and a child’s ‘right to life’ should not be seen as conflicting with a woman’s right to reproductive choice. The mere seeking of an unqualified right to abort a child with disability can be said to be an attack on the dignity of disabled persons as it portrays disability as something undesirable. The society should refrain from seeking to prevent the birth of the specially-abled while the medical and legal professions work harder for their welfare.


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