Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

By Saroj Singh|Updated : March 24th, 2020

With the passage of a bill that seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is in the discussion. The bill seeks to amend specific provisions for “special categories of women” which include rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled and minors. 

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

The law in India provides 12 weeks in which pregnancies can be terminated. This period can be extended to 20 weeks in some instances. This has resulted in women resorting to unsafe abortions, which can lead to complications, sometimes even death. With advances in medical technologies or safe abortions, the bill amends 1971 abortion law to increase the upper limit for terminating pregnancies. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 was passed by a voice vote.

How will the proposed law impact society?

The proposed law allows termination of pregnancies in cases related to rape, incest, minor girls, and pregnancy with substantial foetal abnormalities.

Key provisions recommended for the amendment

  • Abortions allowed if the mother’s health and child are at risk.
  • Abortions up to 12 weeks on the advice of a medical practitioner.

Due to the existing provisions, abortions are carried out in India as per the 1971 Medical termination of Pregnancy Act. Under the Act, pregnancies can be terminated up to 12 weeks, if they pose harm to the life and well-being of the mother. It can also be terminated if there is a risk for the child to suffer abnormalities and birth. If two medical practitioners advise pregnancies can be terminated upto 20 weeks.

Need for the amendment

  • It is observed that in complicating situations if pregnancy is extended, then many others risk their lives and fatalities registered in the past. In such circumstances, abortion is the safest and easiest issue that can be addressed. 
  • As per the data, 8% of the death register every year due to unsafe abortions.
  • Also, the abortion facility is not readily available in rural areas. Abortion, if done through quacks, make it unsafe and risks the life of the mother.

 Missing Provisions under the law

  • Abnormalities detected late in pregnancies are not covered.
  • Pregnancies, as a result of sexual violence, are not covered beyond two-weeks.

Due to these existing norms, women resort to unsafe abortions generally.

Risk associated with the life of a mother

Presently, the pregnancies wherein abnormalities in the foetus are detected in the late stage for more than 12 weeks. As per the existing law, the mother is not allowed to terminate such foetus, which risks the life of the mother as well. If the termination beyond 24 weeks is made legal, then practitioners recognised by the government will perform the procedure and risks can be averted.

Some key highlights

  • In this amendment in this amendment to the Act, the termination of pregnancy is sought beyond 24 weeks. 
  • It will be permitted in special circumstances such as substantial foetal abnormalities. Diagnosis by a medical board is considered. 
  • A medical board will be constituted in each State and Union Territory under the bill. It will include a gynaecologist, a paediatrician, a radiologist and any other member as State see fit.
  • Other functions and powers of the board will be notified by the govt 
  • Women’s privacy will be ensured and protected, if the foetus is terminated, i.e., name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy is terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law which is in force. 

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