Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill explained
New Delhi, August 31: The Supreme Court on Thursday permitted a Pune-based woman to abort her 24-week foetus suffering from abnormalities. The Court came to the conclusion relying on a medical board report that the foetus was without a skull and there was no treatment. The Centre submitted in the Court that all States and Union Territories had been told to form medical boards to deal with such abortion cases according to the apex court's directions.
So this case has once again brought to the forefront the issue of the need for a comprehensive law on Medical Termination of Pregnancy. Draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014 explained here.
What is it?
The draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 seeks to amend Section 3 of the principle The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 to provide that "the length of pregnancy shall not apply" in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with "substantial foetal abnormalities as may be prescribed".
The current Act does not allow abortions above the gestational age of 20 weeks. However, legal experts have argued that medical science and technology have made the 20-week ceiling redundant and that conclusive determination of foetal abnormality is possible in most cases after the 20th week of gestational age.
Besides increasing the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the draft Bill allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider. Under the 1971 Act, even pregnant rape victims cannot abort after 20 weeks, compelling them to move court.
Why should the MTP Act be amended?
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in India was amended in 2003 to facilitate better implementation and increase access for women especially in the private health sector. However, unsafe abortions are widely prevalent even 40 years after the Act came into force.
What is the current status of MTP?
The 2014 draft is yet to see light. With the 2014 Bill in limbo, the Supreme Court is the last resort of the affected people. The Court has agreed to look into whether a wider interpretation ought to be given to phrases like "risk to the life of the pregnant woman" and "grave injury to her physical and mental health".
OneIndia News (with agency inputs)