Reproduction, Abortion and Women's Health *
The question of women's health seems to be cast in adjunct to reproduction, at least as far as the Indian state is concerned. For the feminist movements in the city of Bombay, women's health are inextricably connected with issues around sexuality, reproduction and the social and legal control of these. In fact, it has been stated in an internal critique that the need of feminists to discuss sexuality seems to have emerged from debates around fertility and fertility control.1
One of the Victories' of the health and the feminist movements in Bombay was the campaign around selective sex determination, using the medical techniques of amniocentesis and ultra sound. The campaign began in 1982, leading to a law banning these techniques in 1988, making Maharashtra the first state in the country to adopt such a law. Other states followed suit and in 1992, a law was passed at the national level, similar in spirit to the Bombay law.
In this paper I will explore some issues related to the campaign in Bombay and the 1988 law. Connected closely to it, in my opinion, are the national family planning programme, the feminist critique of the methods and the ideology of the programme, legal and "moral" dilemmas connected with abortion and its implied and stated links with sex determination.
THE POLITICS OF THE FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAMME Indian feminists have pointed out that unlike in the West, where women have had to struggle to get access to the most basic birth control methods, in our country, the state uses force and coercion to reduce birth rates. India was the first country in the world to accept family planning as a national programme as is apparent in the first and second five year plans.2
* Research Scholar, Department of History, Delhi University, Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 28, Nos. 11-12 Nov. - Dec. 1998