Home >News >India >Keeping up with medical advancements, India moves towards liberalization of abortion rules
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Keeping up with medical advancements, India moves towards liberalization of abortion rules

  • MTP (Amendment) Bill aims to extend legal abortion services on eugenic, social, therapeutic, humanitarian grounds
  • A section of experts say that all women should be included in the law

NEW DELHI : India will soon have one of the world’s most liberal abortion legislations. The Union Cabinet last week approved the amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, which will help strengthen women’s reproductive rights and prevent unsafe abortions.

The MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2020, proposes to extend the upper limit of pregnancy termination from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. According to the World Health Organization, between 2010 and 2014, on an average, 56 million induced abortions (safe and unsafe) were carried out, globally, every year. The proportion of unsafe abortions was significantly higher in developing countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, compared to developed countries, the WHO said. A report from the Guttmacher Institute, a global research and policy organization on sexual and reproductive health, released in March 2018 had said that as of 2017, 42% of women of reproductive age lived in 125 countries with highly restrictive abortion laws—prohibited altogether, or allowed only to save a woman’s life or to protect her health. A vast majority (93%) of countries with highly restrictive laws were in developing regions, the report said. Since 2000, 28 countries have modified their abortion laws—all but one expanded legal grounds to allow abortions to protect a woman’s health for socioeconomic reasons with 24 nations adding at least one of the three additional grounds: In cases of rape and incest, or when the foetus was diagnosed with a grave anomaly.

The MTP Bill aims to extend legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian and social grounds by raising the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women, including include rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled women and minors, among others.

“Replacing the archaic law of 1971 to keep up with medical advancements is a great step forward to ensure that women across India, legally and rightfully get access to safe abortions. This amendment was long overdue. In the times when countries, including many states in the US, are restricting abortion, it is heartening to see a trend of liberalization of abortion laws, which in today’s day and age, is not a privilege but an absolute right of every women," said Suryaprabha Sadasivan, vice-president and healthcare practice lead, Chase India, a research and public policy consultancy.

A section of experts, however, said that all women should be included in the law. “We welcome the cabinet approval of the Bill, but it includes some conditionality that could result in a denial of reproductive rights of women, especially those with limited resources and poor access to services. Also, the gestation period increase should be for all women as medical technological advancements have shown that abortion beyond 20 weeks is safe," said Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India.

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