Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan tabled the Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill 2020 (Amendment) in Lok Sabha last month, which was further approved by the Union Cabinet. The bill is essentially an amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 by extending the upper limit to medically terminate a pregnancy to 24 weeks from the current 20 weeks. The bill seeks to make it easier for women to safely & legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy on humanitarian, health, eugenic & social grounds.
The amended bill also has a revised contraceptive-failure clause, extending its ambit from “only married women or her husband” to include “any woman or her partner”. The Union Government hailed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill 2020 (amendment) as a step to ensure safe terminations of pregnancy for women & & give them full control over their bodies & reproductive rights. The 24-week limit to legally terminate a pregnancy will also help rape victims & specially-abled women, who may not realize that they’re pregnant until quite late in their pregnancy.
The bill also seeks to protect the safety of women by making it illegal to release the particulars like name, address etc. of the woman seeking an abortion, to anyone but her dedicated doctor &/or medical supervisor. The issue of extending the upper limit of medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks from 20 weeks was first raised in the parliament in 2018, to legalize abortions beyond 20 weeks & stop women from turning to ‘fake abortion clinics’ & endanger their health and life. The Union Health Ministry made the first move towards legalizing Medical termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks in July 2019 in an affidavit submitted before the Delhi High Court.
Benefits of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020(amendment):
- Many foetus abnormalities can be detected only after the 20th week, often forcing expecting parents to go for a termination after the prescribed period has already passed.
- The foetal anomaly scan, a medical scan to reveal any underlying abnormalities in the foetus, is usually done during the 20th-21st week of pregnancy. If the results are late & show any life-threatening abnormality or deformity in the foetus, the 20 weeks time period is limiting & harmful to the mother’s health.
- The amended law will help rape victims, ill & under-age women to be able to terminate their pregnancy bypassing lengthy legal procedures, as were required by the previous law.
What the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020(amendment) entails:
- The amended bill requires the opinion of one registered medical practitioner instead of the previous 2 or 3, for termination of pregnancy in the gestation period of up to 20 weeks.
- For termination of pregnancy in the gestation period of up to 20-24 weeks, the amended bill requires the opinions of 2 registered medical practitioners.
- The amended bill aims to increase the gestation limit for termination of pregnancy for women falling under ‘special’ category; rape victims, mentally or physically ill women, minors &/or specially-abled women.
- The amended bill also protects the identity of the women seeking medical termination of pregnancy with a clause clearly stating, “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorised in any law that is currently in force.
We wholeheartedly welcome the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020(amendment) & hope its provisions help vulnerable women like rape-victims, minors & specially-abled women take full control over their own bodies & their reproductive health.
We also hope the new law deters women from having to go to ‘fake abortion clinics’, thus risking their lives to get an abortion.