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MTP Bill 2021 is not progressive enough

Synopsis: The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 MTP Bill  aims to improve women’s reproductive rights. But it will restrict women’s bodily autonomy if implemented.

Introduction:

The Lok Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021. Now the bill is in the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha has to maintain caution in passing the Bill as it enforces societal prejudices against women.

Important Provisions of the MTP Bill:

The bill is hailed as a much-needed departure from the existing MTP Act, 1971 for two reasons.

  1. Firstly, the MTP bill replaces “any married woman or her husband” with “any woman or her partner”. This step will facilitate the termination of pregnancy due to contraception failures and destigmatize the pregnancies outside marriage.
  2. Secondly, the MTP Bill increased the time limit. The Bill increases the pregnancy termination time from the current 20 weeks to 24 weeks. There are two categories for that:
    1.  Termination of Pregnancy from 12 weeks to 20 weeks: Women can terminate the pregnancy after consulting one RMP (registered medical practitioner).
    2. Termination of Pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks: Women can terminate the pregnancy after consulting two RMPs.

Challenges with the MTP Bill:

There are a few significant challenges with the MTP bill. They are,

  1. The problem with the upper limit: The government increased the upper age to 24 weeks(Category 2). But, that does have certain conditions like
    1. the life of the pregnant woman or pregnancy can cause grave injury to her mental or physical health.
    2. If the child were born it would suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality.
      But these limitations are not useful when the opinion of the medical board is necessary. So, the medical board can certify any pregnant woman as not having ‘substantial foetal abnormalities’ and force her not to terminate the pregnancy.
  2. Restricting the bodily autonomy of women: The Bill still enforces the patriarchal setup. The woman alone cannot terminate her pregnancy. She always needs the opinion of one or two RMPs.
  3. The scientific necessity of the 24-week ceiling: There might be abortions after 24 weeks as well. It could be for the reasons like,
    1. Development of foetal abnormalities after 24-week
    2.  A sudden change in circumstances (due to separation from or death of a partner), etc.
      But the MTP Bill does not cover these points into consideration.
  4. Reduced access to termination facilities: Pregnant women will also fail to approach termination facilities for having a fear of judgment from medical practitioners.
  5. Against the Supreme Court judgment: The SC in KS Puttaswamy v Union of India case upheld the women’s constitutional right to make reproductive choices. But the MTP Bill is a clear violation of women’s Fundamental Right to make choices individually.

So, the government has to reconsider the MTP Bill in a holistic manner of women’s development.

Source: The Indian Express

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