• LAWGIC STRATUM

THE MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) BILL 2020

Updated: Jan 6

Author: Shusna Santra



INTRODUCTION


Abortion and reproductive rights are within the domain of women's rights. The act of terminating a pregnancy is governed by laws made by the government and special boards found out by them. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971 was enforced to make abortion safe. 81% of abortions in India are done under the Act. Despite the Act being in force, India faced issues of maternal mortality and needed some amendments.

The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment)Bill,2020 was passed in Lok Sabha in March 2020. The Bill is yet to be discussed in Rajya Sabha to become an Act. Though the amendments show signs of 'progressive law', it also raises several other issues.


LAWS GOVERNING TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY IN INDIA


Section 312 IPC,1860[1] spells abortion (voluntary miscarriage) and criminalizes it but legalizes therapeutic abortion.

Section 3(2) of MTP Act states the clauses for abortion.[2]

Even the Constitution talks about it under Art.21. Suchita Srivastava v Chandigarh(2009) 14 SCR 989)[3]


FEATURES OF THE AMENDED BILL


●The Amended Bill mentions the requirement for approval from one registered medical practitioner to terminate pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.

●The Bill also mentions the requirement of approval from two registered practitioners to terminate pregnancy unto 20-24 weeks of gestation.

●After a gestation of 24 weeks’ termination of pregnancy is allowed in case of fetal abnormalities. Also, termination is allowed on the permission of an authorized medical board which should include a gynecologist, a pediatrician, a radiologist.

●The Bill also increases the gestation limit for 'special categories of women' which includes rape victims, minor and specially-abled women.

●The Bill states the details of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated is not to be revealed to any person other than a person 'authorized by law'

●The current Act as well as the Amended Bill states 'a women' to terminate the pregnancy if they wish to.


NEED FOR THE AMENDMENT

  • Reports show that 13 women in India die every day due to unsafe abortions.[4]

  • The new Bill increased the amount of gestation period for termination.

  • Since the pregnancy can be terminated within 12 weeks if the medical practitioner observes that it can cause harm to the life of the mother or can be born with abnormalities, the gestation limit of the termination was increased so that women can still abort if any complication arises at a later stage.

  • As rightly stated by Union Cabinet Minister, Smriti Irani, that India will now have progressive law which allows legal abortions with increased time period on a broad range of social and therapeutic grounds[5]. The new MTP Bill 2020 empowers women especially victims of rape and differently-abled women.

  • Criticism face by the MTPA was that it could not keep pace with advances in medical technology that allow removal of the fetus. Plus, better medical facilities are available in urban areas more than the rural ones. Therefore, the extension of time and availability of better resources can improve the quality of life of women.

  • The proposed law has excluded the provision which requires the consent of a minor girl to terminate her pregnancy.

  • Therefore, the extension of time has eased the process of abortion with a better medication policy.


PROGRESSIVE SIGNS OF THE AMENDMENT

  • The Bill aims at providing a 'progressive law' by giving more power to women by providing better medical facilities.

  • The Bill provides a provision for a specially-vulnerable woman to terminate her pregnancy which also includes minors (that too without the consent of the guardian) shows a progressive side of the government at empowering women.

  • The current bill proposes to include 'partner' instead of 'husband' showing another progressive attitude in the Indian society.


ISSUES WITH THE AMENDMENT

  • The rights of a person who does not want to continue a pregnancy are not focused on the new bill.

  • The women till now do not have absolute right on terminating the pregnancy. To ensure women have reproductive rights, she should be given complete autonomy in terminating their pregnancy.

  • The bill on, one hand, shows signs to be progressive in nature on the other hand the bill does not take into account transgender and non-binary people. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as well as the new bill fails to extend the rights for gender binary, transgender, and intersex people. Instead of 'pregnant woman' it should use the word 'pregnant person'.

  • Another fault noticed is that the bill states that information regarding the women whose pregnancy was terminated cannot be provided to anyone else except for people 'authorized by law'. This could create security-related problems in the future and can compromise the privacy and secrecy of the person.

CONCLUSION


Although the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill is a progressive step taken by the government, it suffers few drawbacks. Where the bill increases the time period for termination of pregnancy, it does not give an absolute right to the pregnant person for terminating the pregnancy. The question here arises will Indians have the absolute right to terminate a pregnancy without state and social interference. Medical guidance is definitely needed but

Another point to be noticed is that neither the Act nor the bill states’ rights of transgender, intersex, and non-binary people. It just mentions the women of the country. This creates a negative impact on the progressive nature of the bill. The bill also mentions that the details of the women whose pregnancy is terminated can be revealed to a person authorized by law. Why is this so? It can harm confidentiality. Therefore, certain questions remain unanswered for which the bill can be criticized.


References

[1]https://devgan.in/ipc/section/312/ [2]https://indiankanoon.org/doc/357331/ [3]http://lawtimesjournal.in/suchita-srivastava-vs-chandigarh-administration/ [4]https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/13-women-die-in-india-every-day-due-to-unsafe-abortions-1296850-2018-07-26 [5]https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/mtp-bill-2020-is-milestone-for-womens-rights-smriti/1722462

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