[Answered]Critically examine various provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Do you think it will enable women’s right to health?

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Discuss salient features of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020. How will it enable women’s right to health?

Conclusion. Way forward.

 The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The bill aim to reduce not only unsafe abortions but also ensure that vulnerable women get every right to decide about her pregnancy.

Salient features of proposed amendments:

  1. Increased gestation limit: The bill has enhanced the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women. It would include vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc.
  2. Opinion of professional: Bill has proposed requirement of the opinion of one doctor for termination of pregnancy, up to 20 weeks of gestation and introducing the requirement of opinion of two doctors for termination of pregnancy for 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  3. Medical board: Upper gestation limit will not apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of the Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
  4. Identity protection: Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force.

A step towards women’s right to health:

  1. Women dignity: The right to choose whether to conceive and carry pregnancy to its full term or to terminate is at the core of women’s privacy and It is important for personal autonomy, bodily integrity, self-determination and right to health as recognised by Article 21 of the Constitution. The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure this and would provide justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy.
  2. Sexual abuse: In case of rape, the woman is weak or underage. Such girls don’t even know they are pregnant and fall prey of unsafe abortion practices. It is important to allow abortion of pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women as they have every right to choose what they want.
  3. Access to safe abortion: According to a study published in the Lancet Global Health, 15.6 million abortions occurred in India in 2015 of which 78% of these were outside health facilities. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aims to expand access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, humanitarian or social grounds.
  4. Reproductive rights: The bill will strengthen reproductive rights of women. They would have a decision of their own if they want to take their pregnancy to full term or not. Mortality of pregnant women is about 8% due to unsafe abortions. The bill will help women getting access to safe abortion.
  5. Need of change: The existing MTP Act, 1971, has not kept pace with the changing times, needs and advancements in medical science. More women are now approaching the Courts to seek approval for abortion over 20 weeks, a provision that has been made available in a number of countries around the world.
  6. Justice: Majority of pleas are due to foetal anomalies that are detected late and cases of sexual assault and rape, particularly of minors, where doctors are not willing to provide abortions, irrespective of gestational stage. This has led to delaying access to safe abortion care, subjecting women and girls to repeated examination by medical boards. A decision to terminate a pregnancy, as provided by existing laws, is the right of the women.

India is changing rapidly and people’s needs and their lives are no longer similar to what was in the 70s when this Act was passed. MTP Act should therefore, be amended to allow AYUSH doctors and nurses to provide it. This is imperative if we need to ensure that every one who needs it, can legally access safe abortions.

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