A reassessment of our abortion laws is required to ensure the rights of both mothers and children
Protecting the life and legal rights of children are the sole purpose of abortion laws.
These laws restrict a mother from making a decision on her child’s birth. Addressing them as “undue burden,” many activists have tried to reform the laws. Bangladesh is also a strict follower of abortion laws. But while we have strict laws to protect a child’s right in the womb of his mother, there are no such “protection laws” for children after they are born.
Many countries have strict abortion laws, and recently some of them have reformed said laws for protecting the rights of the mother. Many feminists believe that these laws are in violation of the mother’s rights. To determine the legality of the abortion, the state usually sets a few parameters.
Most countries have four to five grounds for legal abortion whereas Bangladesh has two. In Bangladesh, the Penal Code states that legal abortion is possible if the child is born from a forbidden relationship and for the welfare of the mother’s health. Between 2010 and 2017, some 27 countries broadened their legal grounds for abortion.
In Ireland, “threatens the mother’s economic status” is one of the grounds for a legal abortion.
Almost one in four Bangladeshis live in poverty and 12.9% of the population live in extreme poverty. According to UNICEF, one of 10 children goes to school for education and the rest of them can’t go because they have to support their family.
Article six of the Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) states the right to live and the government should ensure that children survive healthily. Right of survival of children includes the right to life, survival, and development.
They have the right to be protected from violation, to have access to a safe place, a clean environment, with access to healthy food and water, medical care, and education. Those rights must be protected by the state. Right to life for a child is a constitutional right in India, which means the state is bound to provide food, education, and medical care for every child, especially the under-privileged ones.
Though these rights are considered basic in Bangladesh, the government has failed to uphold any of them.
A report by UNICEF on “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality” highlights a child’s chances of survival that still depend on where he or she has born, and how under-privileged mothers have more child deaths than others.
So, the economic status of a mother matters for the better care of a child. People cannot claim those rights because the government is not constitutionally bound to provide the rights of a child.
At the same time, using the economic status of a mother is an immoral and illegal ground to abort a child as claimed by many political activists.
Where the right to survive is not ensured by the state, the strict abortion laws become a burden and this is one of the reasons of increasing child labour, child marriage, and even child violence.
As the government has failed to ensure basic rights of every child, our strict abortion laws need to be reformed.
The economic status of a mother is a massive issue, and banning abortion via strict laws doesn’t make things any better for women. WHO has found that criminalizing abortion only drives it underground and makes the procedure more dangerous.
Ireland, Chile, and, recently, South Korea amended their abortion laws. The right to survive of a child must be ensured by the State.
But until that is made possible, our strict abortion laws need be reformed. A child should be cared for and pampered, a child shouldn’t be considered a burden by his family, and that responsibility belongs to the state as much as it does to the family.
Suparna Roy is a student of Law.