Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act-The Hindu-06-08-2022


The apex court may loosen the grip of an abortion law that bars unmarried women from terminating pregnancies up to 24 weeks.

Under the IPC, 1860, voluntarily terminating a pregnancy is a criminal offence.( It is a crime to get an abortion because you or your family do not want a girl child. If you get an abortion after you come to know the sex of the foetus, you can be punished with jail time of up to three or seven years depending on the stage of pregnancy (Section 312 IPC 1860).
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 allows for aborting the pregnancy by medical doctors (with specified specialisation) on certain grounds.
1. A pregnancy maybe be terminated up to 12 weeks based on the opinion of one doctor, and up to 20 weeks based on the opinion of two doctors.
2. Termination is permitted only when continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, cause grave injury to her mental or physical health (including rape and failure of birth control measures), or in the case of foetal abnormalities.
3. Termination is also allowed at any point during the pregnancy if there is an immediate necessity to save the woman’s life.

The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 expands the access to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian and social grounds to ensure universal access to comprehensive care. It amends the Act to increase the upper limit for termination from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women, removes this limit in the case of substantial foetal abnormalities, and constitutes Medical Boards at the state-level. It also states that with the advancement of medical technology, there is a scope to increase the upper limit for terminating pregnancies especially for vulnerable women, and in cases of severe foetal abnormality.

MTP (Amendment) Act , 2021
-Duration of Pregnancy < 20week
Advice of single doctor is sufficient for termination of pregnancy before this amendment advice of two doctor is needed.
-20week Advice of two doctor needed for termination of pregnancy before this amendment no termination of pregnancy is allowed.
- Duration of pregnancy>24 weeks
Medical Board in case of substantial foetal abnormality.
Medical Boards: All state and union territory governments will constitute a Medical Board. The Board will decide if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks due to substantial foetal abnormalities. Each Board will have a gynaecologist, paediatrician, radiologist/sonologist, and other members notified by the state government.

Significance of this ACT:

-After the 20th week, a lot of fetal anomalies are discovered, changing a wanted pregnancy into an unwanted one. The fetal anomaly scan is usually performed during the 20th and 21st weeks of pregnancy. If this scan is delayed and it finds a deadly defect in the fetus, the 20-week period is the limit. This proposal would allow for the termination of a pregnancy if a fetal abnormality is discovered after 20 weeks.
-The law will assist rape victims, sick and underage women in legally terminating undesired pregnancies.
Significantly, the Act also applies to unmarried women, removing one of the 1971 Act’s regressive provisions, which prohibited single women from citing contraception failure as a cause for obtaining an abortion. Allowing unmarried women to medically terminate pregnancies while also protecting the privacy of the person seeking an abortion will give women the reproductive rights they are entitled to.

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