LEGALITY OF ABORTION IN INDIA
“Abortion is part of being a mother and of caring for children because part of caring for children is knowing when it’s not a good idea to bring them into the world.”
The medical termination of pregnancy performed deliberately is known as abortion. Abortion is legal in India up to a specified time. If pregnancy termination is done past the time specified by law, it becomes a punishable offense. This offense is known as foeticide. When pregnancy discontinues before the prescribed legal period, it is known as abortion. There are certain conditions enumerated by the law that forms the basis of abortion in India. These include time limit, legality, and punishment. There are two ways to perform the abortion, namely, surgical and medical abortion. A female undergoes medical abortion in cases where she is pregnant for less than seven weeks & surgical abortion takes place in cases where a female is pregnant beyond a period of 7 weeks. The killing of a fetus regards to be a crime in India. The Act that governs the legality and illegality of abortion in India is The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
There are various provisions enumerated in the act which lay down the period of termination, and other guidelines as to the legalization of abortion in India. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) bill, 2020 was recently approved by the Union cabinet in February. The need for amendments and the new features that have been proposed in the bill are as follows:
NEED FOR AMENDMENTS-
- The MTP act of 1971 had a few defaults that provided the need for its amendment.
- Section 3 (2) of the Act laid down certain conditions where pregnancy could be terminated by a medical practitioner who was registered. These were:
- Pregnancy not exceeding beyond the period of 12 weeks
- In cases where 12 weeks have been extended but the pregnancy did not exceed 20 weeks, the abortion could take place only if 2 medical practitioners believe that the prolongation of the pregnancy would risk the life of the woman or would affect her health physically or mentally; or if they believe that the child born out of such a pregnancy would suffer any kind of serious physical or mental issues after being born.
It was found that such enumerated conditions hindered the right of the woman to decide as to the termination of pregnancy, as complete discretion as to the abortion was given to the medical practitioner. Many women observed that numerous abnormalities occurred even beyond the period of 20 weeks that could only be seen in the later stages of gestation.
- In cases of rape and sexual assault, it was witnessed that the doctors did not permit to perform abortion irrespective of the period of gestation.
- Such problems led to a delay in providing safe abortion care to women. Many times, women and girls were denied proper service and the other times had to go through repetitive medical examinations due to the procedure and conditions laid down.
- In cases where the permission of two medical practitioners is required, it becomes difficult for the people residing in the rural areas where a lot of times there is unavailability of a second practitioner.
Thus, a need for amendments was seen in the MTP act of 1971.
PROPOSED PROVISIONS TO THE 2020 BILL
The following features were proposed to be changed in the previous act of 1971:
- In the present bill, the maximum period that was put as a limit for abortion was increased from 20 weeks to 24 weeks.
- The opinion required from the Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) for the termination of pregnancy was raised to 20 weeks of period of gestation.
- Where the consultation and opinion of two medical practitioners were required, the period was made flexible, i.e. up to 20-24 weeks.
- The period of 20-24 weeks was made flexible keeping in mind the victims of sexual assault and the survivors of rape.
- The new bill also keeps in mind the conditions where there is a failure of contraceptives. It thus aims to provide them an extended period, permitting them to terminate their pregnancy medically.
The bill that has recently been introduced, is very beneficial and aims to provide additional benefits to all the women who decide to terminate their pregnancy. The amendment is also essential because a lot of women understand and realize the need to terminate their pregnancy in the first five months. Thus, it gives them a flexible time to make a firm decision of the same. It aims to provide safer conditions of pregnancy with better facilities of care.