How to Get an Abortion
Some pregnancies are unwanted; some are unviable. Unfortunately, our schools teach us very little in the way of sex education, and even less in the way of how to get an abortion when you want or need one. However, India has a fairly comprehensive abortion law, and abortions are more common than you might think. Here’s what you need to know for a safe termination of pregnancy.
How far along can I be and still get an abortion?
In order to legally get an abortion in India, you need to be less than 20 weeks pregnant. Most countries have some form of law stipulating when the ‘cut-off’ date for an abortion is, and it usually involves an ethical stand on when a foetus becomes a baby. However, India makes exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or the pregnancy is the result of a rape, although these cases must go to court before the abortion is approved.
Within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, you need the abortion to be approved by one doctor. After 12 weeks, the approval of two doctors is required.
Where can I get an abortion?
Abortions need to be administered by a Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP). Most OBGYNs are registered to perform abortions, although other doctors may also be certified to perform them, and not all OBGYNs perform them, so it’s advisable to check before you make an appointment.
Do I need permission or consent to have an abortion?
You do not need consent for termination of pregnancy if you are married, or if you are unmarried and above 18. If you are unmarried and below 18, you need written consent from a parent or guardian. Indian law also states that women who are ‘mentally unstable’ require written consent from from a guardian.
What method will be used to perform the abortion?
If you are within 9 weeks of your last period when you terminate the pregnancy, you can have a medical abortion — that is, your OBGYN can prescribe you pills that will terminate the pregnancy without surgery, and conduct a follow-up check up to make sure it was successful.
For pregnancies between seven and 15 weeks, the abortion is performed via vacuum aspiration. Beyond 15 weeks, the recommended procedure is dilation and evacuation. A small number of second trimester abortions involve inducing labor with drugs, but this procedure involves hospitalization.
What is the difference between vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation (D&E)?
An abortion is induced via vacuum aspiration if you are within your first 15 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, vacuum aspiration is performed with cervical dilation, where they induce an opening in the cervix. The fetus is removed via suction, which is caused by a manual or electric pump inserted into the uterus. Vacuum aspiration only requires a local anesthetic, and the procedure is not complicated, so it usually takes only 15 minutes (although you will likely be in the clinic for a few hours). Usually, you will be required to attend a follow-up appointment a few weeks later to check for signs of infection.
Second trimester abortions usually call for the dilation and evacuation method, because the fetal skeleton has begun to calcify, so suction alone will not be able to remove the fetus. Prior to the procedure, the cervix is dilated, either through drugs or moisture absorption rods inserted into the cervix (though the actual procedure usually only takes a few minutes, the dilation process can take a few hours, but up to two days in later stages of pregnancy). The procedure is performed under either (light) general anesthesia or local anesthesia. During the procedure, suction is applied, and the fetus and contents of the uterus are surgically evacuated.
Will anyone be notified when I have an abortion?
If you are an adult woman, no one will be notified if you have an abortion, including your husband or your boyfriend. However, an abortion performed without a husband’s knowledge is considered legal grounds for divorce.
Do I need a reason to have an abortion?
Indian law states that a woman must provide a reason for having an abortion (other than that she doesn’t want the baby). However, the legally acceptable reasons are wide-ranging enough that if you would like an abortion and are within the 20 week gestational limit, you will likely be able to obtain one. The following are legally permissible reasons for termination of pregnancy:
- A woman has a serious disease and the pregnancy could endanger her life
- A woman’s physical or mental health is endangered by the pregnancy
- The foetus has a substantial risk of physical or mental handicap
- A woman contracts rubella (German measles) during the first three months of pregnancy
- Any of a woman’s previous children had congenital abnormalities
- The foetus is suffering from RH disease
- The foetus has been exposed to irradiation
- The pregnancy is the result of rape
- A woman’s socio-economic status may hamper a healthy pregnancy
- A contraceptive device failed