MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020

MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020

 

WHY IN NEWS?

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020 was passed in Lok Sabha in March 2020, and is likely to be brought before Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session.
  • The Bill proposes several amendments, including the constitution of a Medical Board in every State and UT.
    • The board will decide on pregnancies beyond 24 weeks in cases of foetal abnormalities.
    • Each board will have one gynecologist, one radiologist or sonologist, one pediatrician, and other members prescribed by the State/UT government.

KEY POINTS

  • It seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances.
  • The “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently abled and minors.
  • The Bill proposes requirement of opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
  • It also provides for the requirement of opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.

NEED FOR OVERHAUL

  • The present abortion law, which is about five decades old, permits abortion up to a maximum foetal gestation period of 20 weeks.
  • In recent years, there have been strong demands to raise the foetal gestation period for abortion beyond 20 weeks.
  • Currently, women seeking to terminate the pregnancy beyond 20 weeks have to face the cumbersome legal recourse. This denies the reproductive rights of women(as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women).
  • Obstetricians argue that this has also spurred a cottage industry(kind of informal industry) of places providing unsafe abortion services, even leading to the death of the mother.
  • As a result, a 2015 study in the India Journal of Medical Ethics noted that 10-13% of maternal deaths in India are due to unsafe abortions.This makes unsafe abortions to be the third-highest cause of maternal deaths in India.

KEY 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.
  • 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.  It may be argued that such matters should be specified by Parliament and not delegated to the government.

WAY FORWARD

  • Though Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is a step in the right direction, the government needs to ensure that all norms and standardized protocols in clinical practice to facilitate abortions are followed in health care institutions across the country.
  • Along with that, the question of abortion needs to be decided on the basis of human rights, the principles of science, and in step with advancements in technology.

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