Why the amendment is required?
- 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.
Highlights of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill, 2020
- 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.
- The Bill proposes 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 gynaecologist, one radiologist or sonologist, one paediatrician, and other members prescribed by the State/UT government.
Issues with bill
- Medical Board to decide termination only in certain cases
- The Bill allows for termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks only in cases where a Medical Board diagnoses substantial foetal abnormalities.
- This implies that for terminating pregnancies due to rape that have crossed the 24-week limit, there is no change in the process
- The only recourse is to get permission through a Writ Petition.
- Categories of women who can terminate pregnancy between 20-24 weeks not specified
- The Bill allows certain categories of women to terminate their pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks.
- The central government will notify these categories.
- It may be argued that the categories of women who may terminate a pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks should be specified by Parliament and not delegated to the government.
- Time frame for Medical Board’s decision not specified
- Unclear if transgender persons will be covered