On 25 March 2021, the new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act (MTPA 2021) came into force. India, undoubtedly made history by amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971. It was approved on 16th of March. The law in general stipulates when and how the pregnancy should be terminated. The drafted law extends the period of termination of pregnancy.
Salient features of MTPA 2021
The upper limit of termination of pregnancy as described in MTPA 2021 has been increased from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for certain groups of women, which includes victims of rape (although not including marital rape, unfortunately), incest, and other vulnerable women (such as women with various forms of disabilities, minors, among others).
Before the change, if the termination occurred within 12 weeks of conception, the law required one medical opinion, and if the termination occurred between 12 and 20 weeks, two medical opinions were required. The amendment now allows 20 weeks of abortion on one doctor’s recommendation and 20 to 24 weeks of abortion on the recommendation of two doctors.
The amendment changes Article 3 of the law, which now applies to single women. The amended article does not use the term “married woman and her husband”, but instead uses the term “woman and her partner”. Unmarried women can also terminate their pregnancy during the legal pregnancy period.
Another addition to the law is the introduction of Article 5A, which penalizes doctors who fail to protect the privacy and confidentiality of women trying to terminate a pregnancy.
Does the Amendment apply to Transgender people?
In some cases, the Act allows “pregnant women” to terminate their pregnancy. It is worth noting that the Transgender (Protection and Rights) Act, 2019 of India, treats transgender people as a separate gender. Identifying transgender people (not necessarily female) after hormone therapy may lead to a transition from female to male to pregnancy, requiring an abortion. It is not clear whether the law will protect transgender people, as it only covers women abortions.
Certain Grounds of Termination of Pregnancy
There are different opinions on the authorization of termination of pregnancy. On the one hand, termination of pregnancy is part of the pregnant woman’s choice and reproductive rights. On the other hand, the state is obliged to protect life, so the foetus must be protected. According to the health status of the foetus and the risk to pregnant women, countries around the world have different conditions and time frames for approving abortion.
In India, MTPA was created in 1971 as an exception to the IPC, allowing certified doctors to terminate certain pregnancies. The bill does not define which women have the right to terminate their pregnancy between the 20th and 24th weeks, but decide on their own. It can be argued that these issues should be concretized by parliament rather than entrusted to the executive branch.
A married female can also additionally terminate a pregnancy up to twenty weeks after the failure of a contraceptive method or tool in the Act. Unmarried ladies also can terminate a pregnancy because of this under the Bill.
The amended act is a step towards women’s safety and well-being, and many women will benefit from it. Several petitions have recently been submitted to the court requesting that the pregnancy be terminated due to an abnormal foetus or due to female sexual violence and the pregnancy exceeding the current gestational age. These changes will expand the scope and opportunities for women to obtain safe abortion services, and will guarantee the dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and fairness of women who need to terminate their pregnancy.
Unlike many other countries, India has legalized abortion in the past forty years. Despite these efforts to liberalize abortion, the issue of abortion is often discussed and subsequently criticized from different angles.
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