The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2020

Voluntarily terminating a pregnancy is a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.  The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 permits medical doctors (with specific specialisation) to terminate a pregnancy on certain conditions. A pregnancy can be terminated at any time up to 12 weeks if one doctor agrees, and up to 20 weeks if two doctors agree. Only where the pregnancy’s continuation will endanger the pregnant woman’s life, cause grave harm to her mental or physical health (including rape and refusal to utilise birth control), or result in foetal abnormalities is it permissible to terminate the pregnancy. Termination is also permitted at any time during the pregnancy if it is necessary to save the woman’s life.

On March 2, 2020, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was tabled in Lok Sabha and passed on March 17, 2020. It changes the Act to raise the upper limit for termination from 20 to 24 weeks for certain groups of women, removes the restriction in cases of significant foetal abnormalities, and establishes state-level Medical Boards. According to the Bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons, multiple cases have been brought in the Supreme Court and different High Courts requesting authorization to abort pregnancies at stages beyond the Act’s 20-week restriction on the grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies caused by rape. It also adds that as medical technology advances, the maximum limit for terminating pregnancies may be raised, particularly for vulnerable women and in cases of severe foetal abnormalities. The key features are;

  • Time limit and grounds for terminating a pregnancy: The Act establishes the grounds for terminating a pregnancy as well as the time restriction for doing so. These clauses are changed by the bill. Table 1 summarises the provisions of the Act and the Bill.
  • Termination due to failure of contraceptive method or device: A married woman may terminate a pregnancy up to 20 weeks after the failure of a contraceptive technique or device under the Act. Unmarried women can also terminate a pregnancy for this reason under the bill.
  • Medical Boards: A Medical Board will be formed by all state and union territory governments. The Board will decide whether a pregnancy can be ended after 24 weeks due to significant foetal abnormalities. The state government will appoint a gynaecologist, paediatrician, radiologist/sonologist, and other members to each Board.
  • Privacy:  Only a person authorised by law may know the details of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated by a certified medical practitioner. Violations are penalised by up to a year in prison, a fine, or both.

In general, there are two opposing viewpoints on the legalisation of abortions. According to one viewpoint, terminating a pregnancy is the pregnant woman’s option and a part of her reproductive rights. The alternative viewpoint is that the state has a commitment to safeguard life and, as a result, the foetus should be protected. Depending on considerations such as foetal viability (the point at which the foetus can survive outside the womb), foetal abnormalities, or harm to the pregnant mother, countries around the world have imposed varied requirements and time restrictions for legalising abortions.

Under certain instances, the Act and the Bill allow “pregnant women” to terminate their pregnancies. According to the bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons, there is a need to expand women’s access to legal and safe abortion services to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions and their sequelae.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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