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Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    20th Oct, 2021
  • Context

    The government has notified new rules (Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021) under which the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women.

  • What was the earlier process?

    Earlier, abortion required the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.

  • What is in the new Rules?

    Relaxation

    • According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, these categories include
      • survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest
      • minors and women whose marital status changes during an ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce)
      • women with physical disabilities
    • The new rules also cover
      • mentally ill women
      • cases of foetal malformation that has
        • a substantial risk of being incompatible with life
        • or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical
        • or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped
      • women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations as may be declared by the government

    Termination of Pregnancy

    • The amended law defines “termination of pregnancy” as a procedure used to terminate a pregnancy by utilizing “medical” or “surgical” methods.
  • Who can abort?

    • One of the serious issues with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 was that only a ‘married women’ was eligible to abort pregnancy (up to 20 weeks).
    • Now, in the latest act, married as well as unmarried women are allowed to terminate their pregnancy.
    • The move from “married woman” and “her husband” to “woman” and “her partner” is appreciable.
  • Who will decide on termination of pregnancy?

    • According to the new rules, a state-level medical board will be set up to decide if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of foetal malformation and if the foetal malformation has a substantial risk of it being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped.
    • Functions: The function of the Medical Board shall be
      • to examine the woman and her reports if she approaches for medical termination of pregnancy
      • to provide the opinion with regard to the termination of pregnancy
      • rejection of a request for termination within three days of receiving the request
    • The Board has also been tasked to ensure that the termination procedure, when advised by it, is carried out with all safety precautions along with appropriate counselling within five days of the receipt of the request for medical termination of pregnancy.
  • Conclusion

    Although India was among the first countries in the world to develop legal and policy frameworks guaranteeing access to abortion and contraception, women and girls continue to experience significant barriers to full enjoyment of their reproductive rights – it is time to change this.

    As a country, it is essential to support and steer reproductive rights, not only because we want healthier women, but because we want empowered women and girls. In this regard, these changes in the MTP Act is a welcome step.