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The MTP Amendment Act 2021 is against Women’s Rights

Synopsis: Though the MTP or Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 act has progressive features. However, it fails miserably in acknowledging the bodily rights of Women.

Overview on The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  1. It was considered a progressive law then because it replaced the 100 years IPC (Indian penal code) that considers abortion a crime.
  2. Section 3 of the act prescribes 20 weeks as the limit to allow for abortion.
  3. Further, abortion requires the certification from two doctors that,
    • The pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the woman or
    • Grave injury to her physical or mental health or
    • That there was a substantial risk that the child born would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities.
  4. Along with this, Section 5 gave an exception to the 20-week limit. An abortion can be done whenever it is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.
  5. The 1971 Act is based on “The Report of the Shantilal H. Shah Committee.
  6. The committee had set a 20-week limit considering the fact that, abortions done after the 20th week will be hazardous for women due to limitations of technology.
  7. But in the current situation, the improvement in technology has allowed to carry out abortions safely right up to full term.
Side effects of restricting abortion:

It has pushed women to seek illegal abortions. Moreover, these terminations are carried out in unhygienic and dangerous places.

Even today about 800,000 illegal and unsafe abortions are performed every year in India. Many of them resulting in morbidities and death

Role of Courts:

  • The Bombay High Court stated that the court cannot overrule statutory restrictions in Nikita Mehta vs State of Maharashtra. It sparked the debate around the right to abortion in India.
  • This led to the increasing number of PIL in the high court and supreme court.
  • Later, the court has ignored the statutory provisions in many cases and routinely allowed abortions way past the 20-week limit. For example, Murugan Nayakkar vs Union of India & Ors, abortion was permitted at 31 weeks.
What are the issues in The MTP Amendment Act 2021?
  • Firstly, it fails to recognize the absolute right of a woman over her body in taking decisions regarding abortions and reproductive health.
  • Secondly, though the limit has increased from 20 to 24 weeks, this comes with the same conditionality.
  • Thirdly, the 24-week limit is not rational given today’s technology where abortions can be done safely up to full term.
  • Fourthly, the requirement of the pregnant woman to approach a medical board in where she has crossed the 24-week limit is not justified, because,
    1. One, it is a breach of Privacy as the women have to consult a minimum of three doctors.
    2. Two, the Act provides for a single board for a State. Millions of abortions took place in India in past the 24 weeks. It is impossible for one board to handle all cases.
    3. Third, records show that no State has the finances or the human resources to maintain the operation and functioning of these boards.
    4. Four, the right to seek termination is restricted to “such category of women as may be prescribed by rules” is vague.

Way forward

Boards are totally unnecessary and an invasion of privacy. Following the trend worldwide, pregnant women should have right to consult their gynaecologist in late-term pregnancies and carry out their abortion under the certificate of their own gynaecologist.

Source: The Hindu

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