CHANGES IN ABORTION LAWS IN INDIA

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The Union Cabinet on January 29 approved extending the upper limit for permitting abortions from the current 20 weeks to 24 weeks for “special categories of women” which would include rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled and minors.

The Cabinet gave its nod to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, and it would be introduced in the Budget Session of Parliament beginning January 31.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS 

In order to increase access of women to safe abortion services and taking into account advances in medical technology, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed amendments after extensive consultation with various stakeholders and several ministries.

Recently, several petitions were moved in courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the current permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women. The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate a pregnancy.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, is for expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds.

The proposed amendments include substitution of certain sub-sections, insertion of certain new clauses under some sections in the existing Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, with a view to increase upper gestation limit for termination of pregnancy under certain conditions and to strengthen access to comprehensive abortion care, under strict conditions, without compromising service and quality of safe abortion.

Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules and would include vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest, differently-abled, minors, etc.

Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of the Medical Board will be prescribed subsequently in rules to be framed under the Act.

Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the amendments will ensure safe termination of pregnancies.

“In a progressive reform and giving reproductive rights to women, the limit of 20 weeks of medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to 24 weeks. This is important because in the first five months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn’t realise and has to go to court. This was discussed with various stakeholders,” he said.

If the pregnancy has to be terminated in 20 weeks, the opinion of one doctor is required. But beyond that, the opinion of two doctors would be needed and one of them has to be a government physician, the minister added.