17 March 2020 4:35 PM GMT
The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in light of the need and demand for increased gestational limit and to ensure safety and well-being of women. The Bill is a legislative response to various petitions moved before the Supreme Court and High Courts, seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at gestational age beyond the...
The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in light of the need and demand for increased gestational limit and to ensure safety and well-being of women.
The Bill is a legislative response to various petitions moved before the Supreme Court and High Courts, seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at gestational age beyond the present permissible limit of 20 weeks, on the grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
Introduced by Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Bill seeks to amend Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, to extend the upper limit for medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks, from the present stipulation of 20 weeks, for certain categories of women which will be defined in the MTP Rules. These categories will include 'vulnerable women' including rape victims.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons annexed with the Bill states,
"With the passage of time and advancement of medical technology for safe abortion, there is a scope for increasing upper gestational limit for terminating pregnancies especially for vulnerable women and for pregnancies with substantial foetal anomalies detected late in pregnancy. Further, there is also a need for increasing access of women to legal and safe abortion service in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity caused by unsafe abortion and its complications."
As per the Amendment Bill, opinion of one doctor will be required for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks; and opinion of two doctors will be required for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
They have to be of the opinion that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality.
Notably, the Bill stipulates that the upper gestation limit will not be applicable in cases where the termination of pregnancy is necessitated by the diagnosis of any of the substantial foetal abnormalities, diagnosed by a Medical Board.
The Medical Board will be comprised of (i) a gynaecologist, (ii) a paediatrician, (iii) a radiologist or sonologist, and (iv) other members, as may be specified by the state government. Their functions and other details of will be prescribed subsequently by the MTP Rules.
Confidentiality Of Identity
The Bill also stipulates that the name and other particulars of the woman whose pregnancy is terminated will not be revealed, except to a person authorized in any law which is in force; and any person acting in contravention of this provision will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
The Bill was supported by several members, who said that it is a big relief to women, undergoing unwanted pregnancies acquired on account of rape, incest, etc. The provision retaining privacy of the woman terminating pregnancy was also appreciated by the members.
Some members however cautioned that the Bill should be amended to ensure that its provisions are not misused to commit female foeticide. A suggestion was also made that the Bill should take within its purview not only pregnant women, but the transgender community as well.
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