MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY ACT 1971

Abortion, a subject often discussed in medico-legal circles, interims various streams of thoughts and multiple discipline, like theology, because most religions have something to say in the matter, ethics, because human conduct and its moral evaluation are the basic issues involved; medicine (in several of its sub-disciplines), because, interference with the body for a curative or supposedly curative issue is at focus; and law, because regulation of human conduct by sanctions enforced by the state through the process of law ultimately become the central theme for discussion.

Abortion may be classified into various categories depending upon the nature and circumstances under which it occurs. For instance, it may be either, (i) natural; (ii) accidental; (iii) spontaneous; (iv) artificial or induced abortion. Abortions falling under the first three categories are not punishable, while induced abortion is criminal unless exempted under the law. Natural abortions is a very common phenomena and may occur due to many reasons, such as bad health, defect in generative organs of the mother, shocks, fear, joy, etc. Accidental abortion very often takes place because of pathological reasons where pregnancy cannot be completed and the uterus empties before the maturity of fetus. Induced abortions is denied in law as an untimely delivery voluntarily procured with intent to destroy the foetus. It may be procured at any time before the natural birth of the child.

One may then argue that if there was no life before birth, then all sorts of legal restrictions and sanctions dealing with the inference of the foetus become unnecessary except to the limited extend of preventing such interference in the interest of the mothers health. On this logic whether or not a mother should be free to abort belongs almost entirely to the category of the individual therapeutic questions. It eases to have any ethical or legal relevance. No country gives absolute choice to the women throughout the period of pregnancy. The fact that during the second or third trimester, almost all countries restrict interference with the foetus except on medical grounds implies that they regard interference with the foetus as deserving of legal condemnation. Such condemnation could only be on the basis that there is some kind of life deserving protection.

The key features of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 were as follows:

# It indicated when pregnancy could be terminated i.e. upto twenty weeks of pregnancy.
# It specified the indications when termination of pregnancy could be done.
# It indicated that only a qualified registered medical practitioner as defined under the Act could conduct termination of pregnancy and relied upon the Indian Penal Code for punishment if conducted by any other.
# It also indicated that termination of pregnancy could be done only in a place established, maintained or approved by the Government.

Ethical and legal debate regarding prevention of unwanted pregnancies has been continuing for many years throughout the world, and this has established an idea of legislation of termination of pregnancy within certain terms and conditions. In India MTP act was passed in 1971 and implemented in Apr 1972 and revised in 1975. Basic principle is that pregnancy can bet terminated when there are some maternal and fetal indications, and is to be done by 20 weeks. But inspite of legislative and judicial action, ethical controversies surrounding MTP still continues.

Though many people believe that MTP is immoral but in today social context it is a reality. The ethical and legal issues regarding MTP currently revolve around the quality of service, right of the dependent minor to give her own consent for MTP, fetal viability and the coercion.

Aishwarya Says:

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