By Soumyashree Sahoo
India amended the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971 after 50 years, by coming up with the MTP Amendment Bill 2020 which came into force on 25 March 2021.
Considered a landmark move, it aims to empower women with access to safe abortions. It will also aid in preventing maternal mortality.
The government has incorporated new rules under the “Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021″, which was passed in March 2021.
•Increasing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women, including survivors of rape/sexual assault, victims of incest, those whose marital status changes during pregnancy that is in case of widowhood or divorce, cases of foetal malformation where there is a risk of physical or mental abnormalities, mentally ill women and women in emergency situations, declared by the government and other vulnerable women such as differently-abled women, minors, etc.
•The opinion of one registered medical practitioner is needed for the termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation. And there is a requirement of the opinion of two registered medical practitioners for the termination of pregnancy from 20-24 weeks of gestation.
•Upper gestation limit will not apply in the cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by a Medical Board. State-level medical boards will be set up to decide if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of foetal malformation where there is a substantial risk of incompatibility with life, physical or mental abnormalities or handicaps. The medical boards will examine the woman and her reports and then, accept or reject the proposal within three days of receiving the request.
•Every state government and union territory has to constitute a medical board which comprises a gynaecologist, a sonologist, a paediatrician and other members notified by the respective state governments to handle the functions prescribed under the new act.
•It further includes a confidentiality clause where the name and other specifics of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated cannot be revealed except to a person authorised by law.
•Anyone who violates the privacy norms defined under the act, would be punished with imprisonment up to 1 year or fine or both under the amended act.
• Extending of the contraceptive-failure clause under MTP services to unmarried women to provide access to safe abortion based on a woman’s choice, irrespective of their marital status.
Pregnancy in itself comes with huge mental and physical changes along with the stress that may impact both the physical and mental health of the mother. And, in cases of unwanted pregnancies or pregnancy with abnormalities, women have to go through insurmountable degrees of pain and agony.
This landmark decision has provided women with the freedom from exploitative and unsafe measures that they’ve been subjected to earlier. It shall restore their dignity as well as access to quality services authorised by law without compromising confidentiality. It will further lead to improvement in maternal mortality which is commendable. We’re one more step closer to providing women with a safe and sound environment for their health.
Experts are of the view that, considering the advancements in scientific and medical technology, the extended 24-week gestation period should be open for all women and not just specific categories of women.
Extending it to all women would empower women in our country as well as make us a liberal woman supporting country which would help us reach another milestone of becoming a developed nation.