The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 (“MTP Act”) was enacted in response to advances in medical research that have resulted in safer abortions.
India revised the MTP Act 1971 in a historic effort to enable universal access to reproductive health services, thereby empowering women by giving comprehensive abortion treatment to everyone.
The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 ensures universal access to comprehensive treatment by expanding access to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian, and social grounds.
- Termination owing to contraceptive method or device failure:
- A married woman may terminate a pregnancy up to 20 weeks after the failure of a contraceptive technique or device under the Act. It also permits unmarried women to end a pregnancy for the same reason.
- Opinion Required for Pregnancy Termination:
- One Registered Medical Practitioner’s (RMP) opinion on pregnancy termination up to 20 weeks of gestation.
- Two RMPs’ opinions on terminating a pregnancy that is 20-24 weeks gestation.
- If a pregnancy is terminated beyond 24 weeks due to significant foetal abnormalities, the opinion of a state-level medical board is required.
- Special Category Upper Gestation Limit:
- Special types of women, such as rape survivors, incest victims, and other vulnerable women, have their upper gestation restriction raised from 20 to 24 weeks (differently abled women, minors, among others).
- “The identity and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated should not be divulged,” save to those who are authorized by present legislation.
- According to the law, if the pregnancy is the result of rape or the failure of the pregnant woman or her partner to use contraception to limit the number of children or to prevent a pregnancy, the anguish caused by the pregnancy’s continuation is considered a grave injury to the pregnant woman’s mental health.
- Another reason for requesting an MTP is the significant possibility that the kid might be born with major physical or mental abnormalities.
- As an exception to everything stated above, the law additionally allows a single certified medical practitioner to terminate a pregnancy at any time if it is immediately essential to preserve the pregnant woman’s life.
- The new law will assist to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3.1, 3.7, and 5.6 by reducing avoidable maternal death.
- SDG 3.1 is about lowering the maternal death rate, whereas SDGs 3.7 and 5.6 are about providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- The modifications would broaden the scope of safe abortion services available to women and promote dignity, autonomy, secrecy, and justice for women who need to end their pregnancy.
- Right to health and life: By the time the MTP Act modifications were introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2020, a number of lawsuits had already been filed in the courts.
- In these judgments, the courts defined a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue her pregnancy as a component of her right to health and life, and hence as non-negotiable.
- The modifications did not eliminate uncertainty between the MTP Act and other statutes such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, to mention a few.
- Other important legislation, such as those on individuals with disabilities, mental health, and transgender people, are similarly out of sync with the modified law.
- Violation of right to privacy: The Supreme Court of India declared in a right to privacy ruling that a pregnant person’s decision on whether or not to continue a pregnancy is part of that person’s right to privacy and, hence, the right to life.
- The modifications being negotiated did not include the standards laid out in this decision.
- The new legislation does not align with other important laws, such as those governing persons with disabilities, mental health, and transgender individuals, to mention a few.
- Conflicts with other laws: The changes made no attempt to resolve conflicts between the MTP Act and, for example, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act or the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
While abortion has been allowed in the country, there is still a long way to go until it is recognized as a right of a person who has the ability to become pregnant to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy unconditionally.
How to structure
- Give a brief intro about Medical Termination Act
- Mention the recent amendments to it
- Critically examine- give the pros and drawbacks of it
- Suggest way forward