The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 was a revolutionary act that legalized abortion in India. The Act allowed medical termination of pregnancy up to the gestational limit of 20 weeks. The MTP Amendment Act was passed in 2021 with certain amendments made to the MTP Act of 1971. The main change was the termination of pregnancy was now allowed up to the gestational limit of 24 weeks.
Amidst the Roe v. Wade Controversy in the United States, the MTP Act was a fresh breath of air. It is considered by many experts as a broad-minded law that gives women a right to their bodies. However, what's the point if Indian women don't even know about the Act?
A recent study on the level of awareness of medical termination of pregnancy showed that 99% of Indian women did not know that the law has changed and the gestational age has increased from 20 to 24 weeks.
The study was conducted by the NGO named Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRSH India). The study subjects were women from the states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
Other findings from the study also portrayed worrying signs as per awareness of MTP was concerned.
95.5% - Indian women had no idea about the existence of the MTP Act.
32% - Responders were unaware of abortion as a legal right.
More than two-thirds of Indian women in every state except Uttar Pradesh (57%) - Have never seen, heard, or read a message about abortion.
56% married and 36% single women - Religious views influence one's views to use MTP services.
As many as 95% of frontline health workers or accredited social health activists (ASHAs) were not aware of the law change. It is a worrying sign because these are the personnel who work at the grassroots and coordinate directly with the people. More than two-thirds of married women rely on these frontline workers for information on pregnancy or abortion.
The only way to educate people about abortion as a human right and abortion laws is to create awareness at the grassroots level.
Capacity building, training, and retraining of frontline workers should be carried out to update their knowledge on the subject. There should be health education sessions, lectures, counseling, roleplays, and mass media information for women to get information and inculcate behavioral change about abortion.
(Input from various media sources)