What the Supreme Court’s order on abortion means for women

Shobita Parthasarathy discusses international policies

Shobita Parthasarathy, professor of public policy and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program at the University of (UM) Michigan

India’s Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to an abortion up to 24 weeks into pregnancy, regardless of marital status, a widely hailed decision by women’s rights activists.

The right to abortion has proved contentious globally after the US Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized the procedure. As the US makes abortion illegal in many states, India, widely considered moving more to the right politically, has given equal abortion access to all women.

Shobita Parthasarathy, a professor of public policy and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program, the University of Michigan, says the Indian court’s decision is important for Indian women.

“In 2021, the Indian parliament amended its Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, and the Supreme Court recently upheld this change. Overall, this law recognizes the realities of a changing India. The main changes include remedying historical discrimination against single women, who until now did not have the same access to abortion services as married women. It also allows women to terminate their pregnancies later.

Parthasarathy’s research focuses on comparative and international politics and policy related to science and technology.

“The United States is increasingly becoming an outlier around the world. Many countries are making it easier for women to access pregnancy termination services, while the United States is making it more challenging. Undoubtedly, the current Indian government is religious and conservative, as evidenced by its treatment of religious minorities in the country. However, there is no single Hindu interpretation of abortion, nor is there a strong anti-abortion movement in the country,” said Parthasarathy.

Parthasarathy adds, “Meanwhile, India has long seen overpopulation as a social and policy problem and made contraception and pregnancy termination central to solving it. Thus, while surveys show that many women find abortion problematic, there are very high rates of the practice in the country.”


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