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Going pro-choice

Going pro-choice

It is only too 'normal' in a patriarchal system that the right of an individual be decided by society and that be shaped by the opinions of all and sundry. The right a person may exercise has to first be approved by the community at large, which may not necessarily have any significant contribution in allaying an individual's very specific troubles whatsoever. The right to choose or not choose life inevitably goes through the filter of society to the rediculous extent that a situation is expected to be in conformity with the pre-conceived notions. The matter of induced abortion is a case in point. But as times change and society opens up to newer aspects of life, some changes, although met with resistance, wriggle their way in. Like on Monday, the Supreme Court admitted a writ petition seeking to decriminalise abortion and allowing women the right to exercise their reproductive choice. This is with the motive to redress severe restrictions on the reproductive choice of a woman, her personal liberty and her bodily autonomy. The Apex Court admits the petition to decriminalise abortion as "The right to exercise reproductive choice is the right to choose whether to conceive and carry pregnancy to its full term or to terminate is it at the core of one's privacy, dignity, personal autonomy, bodily integrity, self determination and right to health recognised by Article 21 of the Constitution," as per the petition filed by Swati Agarwal, Garima Sekseria and Prachi Vats. A Bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi issued a notice to the Centre on their contention that several provisions of the 48-year-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, impose unreasonable restrictions on the reproductive choice of a woman, her personal liberty and bodily autonomy. The court has asked the government to respond to the petition. This is indeed a very progressive move that was long overdue. In a country that is aiming higher every time, and also where nearly half the workforce is female, clamping them down with laws over highly personal choices is only counter-productive and detrimental to economic progress. The law largely allows a woman to abort only if the continuance of the pregnancy (according to a medical practitioner) involves a risk to her life; grave physical or mental injury; or risk of serious foetal abnormalities. The first trimester of pregnancy entails lesser risk for abortion. However, there is no logical basis (or interest) for the state to interfere in a woman's reproductive choice. The petition went on to say that "The restriction puts an undue burden on the exercise of free reproductive choice and renders it meaningless. This provision, in substance, makes right to terminate pregnancy an exception, which is otherwise recognised as an important facet of right to life, human dignity and self-determination". It is time the state and society both realise this and take a step towards being more progressive, inclusive, and tolerant to alternative narratives for good.

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