Women's Abortion Needs and Practices in Rural Maharashtra
How do women perceive the issue of abortion? What are their abortion needs? What standards of abortion care do they expect? What are their concerns when choosing abortion service providers? What are the complex dynamics involved in decision-making on abortion? How much do women know about the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act? Even 25 years after the implementation of the MTP we have very little understanding of abortion issue from this perspective. Most of the earlier research on abortion focused on the interests and motivations of policy-makers, doctors and demographers. Women were simply not in the picture. To understand politics of abortion and to place abortion in the larger context of women's rights to determine their own sexuality, fertility and reproduction are very important. This project emerged from this need. A qualitative study to understand abortion from women's perspective was carried out in the villages of Pune district using qualitative methodology. The study revealed that -
These complexities in decision making suggested that there is need to increase space for women to negotiate their sexual and reproductive rights within and outside the family. She needs to have back-up support through legislation and social activism. Enhancing women's role in decision making in other aspects of their lives, including that related to marriage, is an important pre-requisite to making women more assertive about their reproductive rights. Empowering women in all aspects of life, within a marriage or otherwise, is essential if we wish to increase women's role in decision-making in the area of reproduction and sexuality.
This study indicated that women are far from happy with the existing abortion services. They are upset that doctors demand their husbands' approval before performing an abortion and that government services pressurise them to accept an IUD after abortion. They are upset that doctors in the private sector take advantage of their situation and charge unreasonably high fees. They resent having to pay for health services in the private sector because the Primary Health Centre is inadequate or indifferent to their needs. They would like easier physical and economic access to abortion services.
Supported by: The Ford Foundation,New Delhi Research Team:Manisha Gupte, Sunita Bandewar and Hemlata Pisal