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Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2020 – Associated Issues

Synopsis – The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020  Continues to ignore Pregnant person’s rights.

Introduction-
  • Recently, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020  passed in the upper house by voice vote.
  • The bill seeks to amend the MTP Act, 1971. It provides for enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women but does not specify the category.
  • Although the MTP Amendment Bill does expand the gestational cap in some cases, it falls well short of becoming rights-based legislation.

Medical termination of pregnancy bill 2020 – explained

Objections raised in the Upper House
  • Lack of consultation with stakeholders.
  • Lack of inclusion of transgender people within the MTP framework.
  • Moreover, there is a lack of emphasis on women’s autonomy in pregnancy.
  • Medical boards would be a breach of privacy. It would cause excessive delays in access to abortion due to a shortage of specialists.
  • The time limit for decision-making by the medical board is missing. Moreover, the women’s representation is unclear.
Issues in the proposed Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  1. Lack of consultation with civil society and grassroots organizations. This is an example of drafting and enacting laws without consultation with the people who are most affected. The Recent Farm Bill, 2020 is a prime example of this.
  2. The provision still restricts abortion to a heteronormative framework. Only cisgender women are considered in it, and not persons with other gender identities.
    1. Under the heteronormative framework, it is a belief that there are only 2 two sexual orientations and genders i.e. male and female.
    2. Cisgender is the person, who identifies herself with the sex at the time of birth. The person who undergoes gender change is not a cisgender.
  3. Issues with setting up of Medical Boards – The MPT bill mandates the setup of a Medical Board in every state. The Medical Boards require giving opinions based on the facts regarding the termination of pregnancies.
      • This could cause severe delays in the abortion process.
      • Pregnant women living in rural areas in large parts of the country could find these Medical Boards inaccessible.
  4. The bill retains the hetero-patriarchal population control legacy. The bill continues with the lack of control to the women, of their reproductive and sexual rights. Abortion will be subject to doctor approval. This is in direct contrast with the Supreme Court’s precedent on reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity.
  5. The Bill’s provisions continue to criminalize abortion. It will promote negative stereotypes and stigma surrounding reproduction, sexuality, and motherhood.
Way forward

Before drafting or enacting legislation, the government must ensure the following:

  • Consultation with all stakeholders – Consultations and deliberations with members from civil society and grassroots organizations should be held by the government since they all have an interest in the implementation of such laws based on their personal experiences.
  • Women can be responsible for their own choices- The decision to terminate a pregnancy should be granted to the woman, not to doctors or any medical board.
      • The paternalistic notion that women need assistance in making decisions about their sexual and reproductive rights needs to change.

Source- The Indian Express

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