Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021

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    • The government has notified new rules related to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021.
      • In this, the gestational limit for termination of a pregnancy has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women.

    Key Highlights of the Amendments

    • Under the new rules, 7 specific categories will be eligible for termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks: 
      • Survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest;
      • Minors;
      • Change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce);
      • Women with physical disabilities;
      • Mentally ill women;
      • Foetal malformation that has a substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born, he/ she may suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities; and
      • Women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations.

     

    Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021

    • It amended the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
    • Salient features of amendments:
      • Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women.
        • It will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules later.
        • It would include survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc.
      • Opinion of only 1 provider will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and of 2 providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
      • Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board
        • The composition, functions and other details of the Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
      • Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force.
      • The ground of failure of contraceptives has been extended to women and their partners.

    Benefits of the Act

    • Expand access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds. 
    • Increase upper gestation limit for termination of pregnancy under certain conditions
    • Strengthen access to comprehensive abortion care, under strict conditions, without compromising service and quality of safe abortion.
    • Lesser harassment to rape victims
    • Reproductive rights of women restored

     

    Comparison from the earlier MTP 2021

    Medical termination of Pregnancy Act 2021

    The new Amendment

    • Earlier, abortion required the opinion of
      • 1 doctor if done within 20 weeks of conception and 
      • 2 doctors if done between 20 and 24 weeks. 
    • Earlier Abortion in between 20 to  24 weeks was allowed but only for very few sections.
    • It has broadened the categories of women who can go for MTP till 24 weeks.
    • According to the new rules, a state-level medical board will be set up to decide 
      • if pregnancy may be terminated beyond 20 months till 24 months.
    • Such a decision can be taken by the medical board only after 
      • due consideration and 
      • ensuring that the procedure would be safe for the woman.
      • The time frame available to the Medical Board is 3 days.

    Conclusion and Way Ahead

    • More Empowering to the Women:
      • Now the extra window of 4 weeks will help reduce the judicial cases apart from giving effect to Right to Choice.
    • Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs. the Union Of India And Others:
      • In this case, Justice Chandrachud stated that 
        • the reproductive choice is personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which, 
          • despite laying a robust jurisprudence on reproductive rights and the privacy of a woman, 
            • does not translate into a fundamental shift in power from the doctor to the woman seeking an abortion.
      • Thus, abortion remains tied to the state-sanctioned conditionalities and not the rights of the woman.
    • Need to remove Overarching qualifiers and conditionalities:
      • The original bill has multiple undefined vague qualifiers like ‘grave injury to her physical or mental health or severe physical or mental abnormality of the fetus.
      • Due to these, the woman’s agency ends up taking a backseat, requiring validation from the law at every stage in the way.
      • This needs to be undone in future amendments.

    Source: IE