The Union Cabinet on Wednesday, January 29, approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to extend the upper limit of abortions from 20 to 24 weeks.
The bill that amends the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971(MTP) will be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament. Speaking to reporters at a Cabinet briefing, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar called the move a "progressive reform."
"In a progressive reform and giving reproductive rights to women, the limit of 20 weeks of medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to 24 weeks," he said.
"This is important because in the first five months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn't realise and has to go to court. This was discussed with various stakeholders. This will reduce maternal mortality," the minister added.
Furthermore, the amendments would ensure safe termination of pregnancy and give women reproductive rights over their bodies, Javadekar said. "Very few countries in the world has such a law and today, India has also joined that list," the minister said in a tweet.
The proposed amendment will increase the gestation limit to 24 weeks for special categories of women that will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules, and will include vulnerable women including rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled women, and minors, a press release said. However, the upper gestation limit will not apply to cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board.
The bill also proposes the requirement of the opinion of one doctor for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation, and that of two doctors for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation. In addition, the name and other particulars of a woman who has undergone an abortion shall not be revealed except to a 'person authorised in any law for the time being in force.'
"It is a step towards the safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted by this. Recently several petitions were received by the Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on the grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women," the statement said.
"The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate the pregnancy," the statement added.