From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : MTP Act
Mains level : Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) and associated issues
The Rajya Sabha has passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that increases the time period within which an abortion may be carried out.
What are the differing opinions with regards to the Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020? Discuss.
MTP Bill, 2020
The MTP Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in March 2020. Its salient features included:
- Proposing requirement for the opinion of one provider for termination of pregnancy, up to 20 weeks of gestation and introducing the requirement of the opinion of two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
- Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include ‘vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc.
- Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of the Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
- Anonymity of the person: The 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.
Benefits sought with the bill
- It is seen as a step towards the safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted from this.
- Recently several petitions were received by the Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
- The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate the pregnancy.
Flaws in the bill
- The Bill allows abortion after 24 weeks only in cases where a Medical Board diagnoses substantial foetal abnormalities.
- This implies that for a case requiring abortion due to rape, that exceeds 24-weeks, the only recourse remains through a Writ Petition.
- The Bill does not specify the categories of women who may terminate pregnancies between 20-24 weeks and leaves it to be prescribed through Rules.
- The Act (and the Bill) requires an abortion to be performed only by doctors with a specialization in gynaecology or obstetrics.
- As there is a 75% shortage of such doctors in community health centres in rural areas, pregnant women may continue to find it difficult to access facilities for safe abortions.
Key Issues and Analysis
- There are differing opinions with regard to allowing abortions. One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights.
- The other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
- Across the world, countries set varying conditions and time limits for allowing abortions, based on foetal health, and risk to the pregnant woman.
- Several Writ Petitions have been filed by women seeking permission to abort pregnancies beyond 20-weeks due to foetal abnormalities or rape.