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Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020

Why in news?

  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020 was passed in Lok Sabha recently.
  • The Bill seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  • The Act increases the time period within which an abortion may be carried out.

Key Amendements To The Bill

  • It seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances.
  • The “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently abled and minors.
  • The Bill proposes requirement of opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
  • It also provides for the requirement of opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
  • Constitution of a Medical Board: Every state government is required to constitute a Medical Board. These Medical Boards will consist of the following members: (i) a gynaecologist, (ii) a paediatrician, (iii) a radiologist or sonologist, and (iv) any other number of members, as may be notified by the state government.
  • Under the Bill, if any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any device or method used by a woman or her partner to limit the number of children, such an unwanted pregnancy may constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.

Need for the Amendment

  • Women faces denial of reproductive rights as women seeking to terminate the pregnancy beyond 20 weeks have to face the cumbersome legal recourse.
  • Due to cumbersome legal recourse, many women turns towards a cottage industry (kind of informal industry) of places providing unsafe abortion services, even leading to the death of the mother.
  • As a result, a 2015 study in the India Journal of Medical Ethics noted that 10-13% of maternal deaths in India are due to unsafe abortions. This makes unsafe abortions to be the third-highest cause of maternal deaths in India.            Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020
  • According to Section 3 (2) of the MTP Act, 1971 a pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner. There are different levels in getting opinion of registered medical practitioners thus This delays the decision-making process for termination of pregnancy.
  • One of the criticisms of the MTP Act, 1971 was that it failed to keep pace with advances in medical technology that allow for the removal of a foetus at a relatively advanced state of pregnancy.
  • The original law states that, if a minor wants to terminate her pregnancy, written consent from the guardian is required. The proposed law has excluded this provision.
  • Thereby, the extension of limit would ease the process for these women, allowing the mainstream system itself to take care of them, delivering quality medical attention.

About The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 provides for termination of pregnancy only up to 20 weeks.                  Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020
  • If an unwanted pregnancy has proceeded beyond 20 weeks, women have to approach a medical board and Courts to seek permission for termination, which is extremely difficult and cumbersome process.
  • The law does not accommodate non-medical concerns over the economic costs of raising a child, effects on career decisions, or any other personal considerations.
    • The law says, for minors- written consent from guardian is required, and
    • The unmarried women cannot cite contraceptive failure as a reason for abortion.

Abortion Laws Across The World

Abortion laws vary across the world. It is learnt that around 60 countries prescribe gestational limits.

  • 52 % including France, the UK, Austria, Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and even Nepal, allow for termination beyond 20 weeks on the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities.
  • Some countries go beyond even these limits with laws in 23 countries-Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Denmark, Ghana, and Zambia-allowing for abortion at any time during the pregnancy on the request of the mother.

Conclusion

  • Though Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is a step in the right direction, the government needs to ensure that all norms and standardized protocols in clinical practice to facilitate abortions are followed in health care institutions across the country.
  • Along with that, the question of abortion needs to be decided on the basis of human rights, the principles of solid science, and in step with advancements in technology.      Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020

 

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