In what Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan termed as a historic move, the Rajya Sabha has passed the Abortion Bill that allows the termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks from the existing 20 weeks for special categories of women such as survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women and minors).
The Bill has also amended the existing Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act which required the opinion of one doctor for abortion within 12 weeks and the opinion of two doctors for pregnancy between 12 to 20 weeks.
The Upper House approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 on 16 March 2021. The Bill was approved in Lok Sabha on 17th March 2020.
Moments after the Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to Twitter calling it a historic moment. He wrote, “A historic bill ensuring dignity, safety and wellbeing of women! The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020 passed in Rajya Sabha today will enhance access to comprehensive abortion care for women in need and strengthen confidentiality clause as well.”
What will change for women after the amendments?
The government has enhanced the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules.
The opinion of only one provider will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and of two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
The upper gestation limit will not apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board. The composition, functions, and other details of the Medical Board will be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
The name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated will not be revealed except to an authorised person.
The ground of failure of contraceptives has been extended to women and her partner.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 broadens access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian, or social grounds. The amendments.
It is a step towards the safety and well-being of the women. Recently several petitions were received by the courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
The amendments will increase the ambit and access of women to safe abortion services and will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate the pregnancy.