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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 01 January, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020

What is the news?

  • The Delhi High Court has directed the Medical Superintendent of All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) to constitute a medical board to examine the condition of a 25-week pregnant woman, whose foetus is suffering from serious abnormalities.
  • The court’s direction came while hearing a petition by a woman seeking permission to undergo medical termination of her 25-week pregnancy on the ground that the foetus was suffering from Bilateral Agenesis and Anlyaramni.
  • 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.
  • The plea said during an ultrasonography, conducted on the woman at the gestational age of 25 weeks, it was discovered that the foetus suffered from Bilateral Renal Agenesis (both kidneys absent) thereby making it incompatible with life.
  • Since pregnancy had crossed the 20 weeks mark and medical termination of pregnancy now prohibited, the woman approached the court.
  • The woman’s counsel said that the foetus would not survive till childbirth as both the kidneys have not developed as yet. The counsel said in the circumstances it would be futile to compel the woman to undergo the full terms of pregnancy.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 or Abortion Law

  • It is related to abortion, procedures and conditions of abortion.
  • India does not allow free abortions, only when there is a risk of life or substantial abnormalities of child. Hence certification of Medical practitioner.

Amendements to MTP Act, 1971

  1. It seeks to enhance the upper gestation period from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women that will be defined. Extension is important as in 1st 5 months of pregnancy, some women realise the need to abortion very late.
  2. Usually foetal anatomy scan is done during 20-21st week of pregnancy.
  3. It will include vulnerable women including survivor of rape, victims of incest.

Difference between 1971 Act and 2020 Bill

  1. 1971 Act allowed termination of pregnancy for 20 weeks. But 2020 Bill says 24 weeks.
  2. If substantial physical and mental injury to child, or if pregnancy risks or is a grave injury to life of mother, then she can abort.
  3. If the termination is for < 12 weeks then 1 Medical practitioner’s permission is required. If it is in between 12 to 24 weeks, 2 Medical practitioners. If > 24 weeks then Medical Board's permission is needed.
  4. According to Section 3(2); Abortion extended to only failure of married women or husband. This is replaced by "A woman and her partner".
  5. Her identity should not be disclose except to a person who is authorised by the law. If it is breached then penalty of 1 year or fine or both.
  6. MTP Act divides the regulatory framework for allowing abortions into categories, according to Gestational age of foetus.

Issues in 1971 Act:

  1. Reports show that > 10 women die everyday due to unsafe abortions in India and backward abortion laws only contribute to weomen seeking illegal and unsafe options.
  2. In 2008, a petition was filed by Haresh and Niketa.= Mehta to abort in 22 week.
  3. High Court does not provide women in final say unlike 67 countries where women can get an abortion on request with or without a specific gestation limit (usually 12 weeks).
  4. Prejudice against unmarried women - According to Section 3 (2) pregnancy because of failure of any birth control device
  5. Issue is that some child's abnormalities is found > 20 weeks.

Still there are issues in 2020 Bill

  1. It does not allow abortion on request at any point after pregnancy.
  2. It doenst take a step towards removing the prejudice against unmarried women.
  3. It enhances the gestation limit from 20 to only 24 weeks in certain cases of women like rape survivors, victims of incest and minors.

The question of abortion needs to be decided on the basis of human rights. In the landmark, US SC judgement Roe vs Wade, the judges held that US constitution protects a women's right to terminate her pregnancy. Ultimately nations will have to decide the outer limit also based on the capacity of their health systems to deliver based on the capacity of their health systems to deliver care without danger to life of mother, there is no uniform gestation viability for abortion.

Source: TH


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