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Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Act 2021

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Act 2021

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Delhi High Court has allowed the medical termination of pregnancy of a woman who had completed 22 weeks of gestation as the foetus was suffering from multiple abnormalities.
  • Gestation is the foetal development period from the time of conception until birth.
  • In India, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act stipulates a ceiling of 20 weeks, for termination of pregnancy, beyond which abortion of a foetus is statutorily impermissible.

About MTP Act

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (“MTP Act”) was passed due to the progress made in the field of medical science with respect to safer abortions.
  • In a historic move to provide universal access reproductive health services, India amended the MTP Act 1971 to further empower women by providing comprehensive abortion care to all.
  • The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 expands the access to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian and social grounds to ensure universal access to comprehensive care.

Proposed Features of the New Bill

  • The Bill permits abortion to be allowed up to 20 weeks on the opinion of just one medical practitioner.
  • To terminate pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks, the opinion of two doctors are required.  This extension of the gestation period up to 24 weeks is given for special categories of women such as rape/incest victims, differently-abled women and minors.
  • For abortions beyond 24 weeks, a state-level Medical Board will decide if it can be permitted, in case of substantial foetal abnormalities.
  • The Board will consist of a gynaecologist, a paediatrician, a radiologist or sonographer and any other number of members as notified by the state government.
  • Only doctors with specialisation in gynaecology/obstetrics can perform abortions.                      Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Act 2021
  • According to the Bill, the “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorised by law.
  • In cases where abortions are desired to terminate pregnancies arising out of rape, where the gestation period exceeds 24 weeks, the only manner would be through a writ petition.

Significance

  • The new law will contribute towards ending preventable maternal mortality to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3.1, 3.7 and 5.6
    SDG 3.1 pertains to reducing maternal mortality ratio whereas SDGs 3.7 and 5.6 pertain to universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • The amendments will increase the ambit and access of women to safe abortion services and will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy.

Issues

  • Different opinions on Termination: One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights while the other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus. Across the world, countries set varying conditions and time limits for allowing abortions, based on foetal health, and risk to the pregnant woman.                                                Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Act 2021
  • Not allowed beyond 24-weeks: The Act allows abortion after 24 weeks only in cases where a Medical Board diagnoses substantial foetal abnormalities. This implies that for a case requiring abortion due to rape, that exceeds 24-weeks, the only recourse remains through a Writ Petition.
  • Abortion to be performed by doctors: The Act require abortion to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics. As there is a 75% shortage of such doctors in community health centers in rural areas, pregnant women may continue to find it difficult to access facilities for safe abortions.

ALSO READ ; https://www.brainyias.com/medical-oxygen/

Mussoorie Times

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