The proposed amendments to the bill aim to expand access of women to safe and legal abortion services
The extension is applicable to ‘special categories of women’ (rape survivors and minors)
The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill that proposes to permit the termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks from the existing 20 weeks. The bill will be introduced in the ensuing budget session of Parliament.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aims to expand access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds. The proposed amendments include substitution of certain sub-sections and insertion of certain new clauses under some sections in the existing Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, with a view to increase the upper gestation limit for termination of pregnancy under certain conditions and to strengthen access to comprehensive abortion care, under strict conditions, without compromising service and quality of safe abortion.
“It is a step towards safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted by this. Recently, several petitions were received by the courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women," an official statement said.
“The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy," it said.
The health ministry proposed the amendments after extensive consultations with various stakeholders and several ministries.
“The bill will strengthen reproductive rights of women. They should have a decision of their own if they want to take their pregnancy to full term or not. Earlier, mortality of pregnant women was about 8% higher due to unsafe abortions. In case of rape, the woman is weak or underage. Such girls didn’t even know they were pregnant and would fall prey of unsafe abortion practices. The bill will help women getting access to safe abortion," said Prakash Javadekar, minister for environment and information and broadcasting after a cabinet meeting.
Other amendments proposed in the bill are the requirements for opinion of one doctor for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation, and introducing the requirement of opinion of two doctors for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
The bill also proposed enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women, which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc.
“Upper gestation limit will not apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition functions and other details of Medical Board is to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act. Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorized in any law for the time being in force," the proposed bill states.
Shaswati Das contributed to this story.
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