On 29th January 2020 Union Cabinet has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment bill, to amend Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), 1971. According to the bill, the upper limit of terminating a pregnancy has been increased from the current 20 weeks limit to 24 weeks. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar termed the bill “progressive” and said that the amendment will give women reproductive rights over their bodies. The bill will be introduced in the following session of Parliament.
Who will this amendment bill help?
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment bill has been carefully drafted and approved for safeguarding the interest of rape victims, women with disabilities and minors, who may not realize their condition until its late. There have been several cases, where girls (minors) do not realize that they are pregnant until the 5th month, and later they go to court with a plea to allow abortion. The amendment will help reduce maternal mortality and several other unwanted situations, like abandoning children or similar.
What led to this amendment?
Usually, a healthy or normal fetus reaches a viable stage after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions at the later stage of pregnancy, or when the fetus reaches viability is extremely rare in India. There could be several reasons for which a woman may choose to terminate the pregnancy after 20 weeks, one of them is the detection of an unhealthy or underdeveloped fetus. Though the child may live, but may not live a healthy life, it is a serious concern for parents and in such cases, they opt for termination of pregnancy. In some of the unfortunate cases, these symptoms in a fetus are detected late, and this causes a delay of more than 20 weeks.
In a related case, a petitioner in September 2019, had challenged the validity of 20 weeks limit of MTP, which was denied by the Centre saying that “State was morally and duty-bound, as the guardian of its citizens, to safeguard the life of a fetus once it attains viability”.