MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2020
About MTP Act, 1971
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered Medical Practitioners. It is possible to get an abortion under the Act if pregnancy is under 20 weeks.
- However, it is subject to several conditions and conducting an abortion without fulfilling the conditions is considered a crime.
What are the conditions?
- Under the MTP Act, the doctor can perform an abortion in the following situations:
- If the pregnancy would be harmful to life or physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
- If there is a good chance that the child would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities which would leave him or her seriously handicapped.
Issues with the current law
- Legal and medical experts feel that a revision of the legal limit for abortion is long overdue.
- Foetal abnormalities show up only by 18 weeks, so just a two-week window after that is too small for the would-be parents to take the difficult call on whether to keep their baby and for the medical practitioner to exhaust all possible options before advising the patient to take the extreme step.
- Since lack of legal approval does not prevent abortions from being carried out beyond 20 weeks, women are put under risk since the abortions then are often conducted in unhygienic conditions by untrained, unqualified persons. It is estimated that about 8% of maternal deaths happen due to unsafe abortions.
What’s in the news?
- 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.
- The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in March 2020.
About the Bill
- The Bill allows abortion up to 24 weeks of gestational age for vulnerable categories of women and there is no limit of gestational age in case of pregnancies with substantial foetal abnormalities, diagnosed by a medical board.
- The Bill proposes constitution of a Medical Board in every State and UT, which will decide on pregnancies beyond 24 weeks in cases of foetal abnormalities.
- Each board will have one gynaecologist, one radiologist or sonologist, one paediatrician, and other members prescribed by the State/UT government.
- Currently, abortion requires the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception, and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.
- The Bill allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain categories of women between 20 and 24 weeks.
- For a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities, the opinion of the State-level medical board is essential.
- Opposition MPs pointed out that the Bill still does not give women the freedom to decide, since she will need a nod from a medical board in the case of pregnancies beyond 24 weeks.
- The Opposition’s demand to send the Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee for detailed scrutiny was defeated by a voice vote.
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