Centre tables a Bill in the Lok Sabha to increase the limit of termination of pregnancy from 20 to 24 weeks

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare today introduced in the Lok-Sabha the ‘Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020’ which seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 in order to increases limit on termination of pregnancy from 20 to 24 weeks with an aim at discouraging informal termination of pregnancies and reducing maternal mortality rate.

As per the existing Act, a pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks if such medical practitioner is of opinion, formed in good faith, that, – (i) the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health; or (ii) there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. In case, the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks, not less than two registered medical practitioners should be of the same opinion.

Now the proposed amendment for the first time provides for the requirement of the opinion of only one provider (medical practitioner) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation. In case of the pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks, the proposed amendment provides for the requirement of the opinion of two providers for termination of pregnancy.

It may be noted that enhancing of upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks would be 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 Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.

The Bill also provides that every State Government or Union territory, as the case may be, shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute a Board to be called a Medical Board for the purposes of to exercise such powers and functions as may be prescribed by rules made under this Act. The Medical Board shall consist of the following, namely:

(a) Gynaecologist;

(b) Paediatrician;

(c) Radiologist or Sonologist; and

(d) such other number of members as may be notified in the Official Gazette by the State Government or Union territory, as the case may be.”

The Bill further provides that no registered medical practitioner shall reveal the name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated under amended Bill except to a person authorised by any law for the time being in force. Further, whoever contravenes this provision shall be punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

“The proposed Bill is a step towards safety and well-being of women and will enlarge the ambit and access of women to safe and legal abortion without compromising on safety and quality of care. The proposal will also ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy”, reads Statements of Objects and Reasons of this Bill.

The Leaflet