Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971

From CSE Wiki
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 is an act to provide for the regulation of medical termination of pregnancy.
  • It allows medical termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks from conception in certain cases.
  • Cases: (these cases are not explicitly mentioned in the Act but derived from clauses and explanations)
    • Risk to life/health of woman
    • Risk to child (of abnormalities)
    • Rape victims
    • Failure of conception (only for married couples)
  • The pregnancies can be terminated by a registered medical practitioner.
  • Pregnancies not exceeding 12 weeks can be terminated only if a medical practitioner gives opinion that
    • there is risk to life of mother or of grave injury to her physical or mental health
    • there is substantial risk of physical or mental abnormalities of child.
  • For terminating pregnancies between 12 and 20 weeks opinion of two or more medical practitioner is required.

Issues

  • 20 weeks limit:
    • There is demand to allow abortion for rape victims beyonds 20 weeks.
    • Also any genetic or development anomalies can be detected more precisely only after 20 weeks of pregnency but by then the statute window of abortion gets closed.
  • Stringent conditions for termination: E.g. unmarried women are not allowed, and termination is allowed only if there is risk of life and not otherwise.
    • Due to this a large number of women take the illegal and unsafe route for abortion.
    • 10-15% of maternal deaths in India are due to unsafe abortions.
  • Anachronistic legislation: It has failed to keep pace with advances in medical technology that allow for the safe removal of a foetus at even relatively advanced state of pregnancy.
  • Limits agency of woman over her body (or reproductive rights): It does not allow abortion at will of woman.
  • Ignores other concerns: The law does not accommodate non-medical concerns over the economic costs of raising a child, effects on career decisions, or any other personal considerations.

Ethical issues

  • There is always an ethical question that “where does life begin?” and thereafter, pitting the rights of the unborn foetus against the rights of the pregnant mother.
  • It is believed that a 20-week-old foetus, medically has a life.

Reforms suggested

  • Allow on demand abortion till 12 weeks.
  • Allow abortion beyond 20 weeks.
  • Allow unmarried women also to terminate pregnancy.

Draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) (Amendment) Bill 2020

  • It extends the legal limit for abortion from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks for special categories of women including survivors of rape, victims of incest (Sexual relations between close relative) and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc.
  • For pregnancies of upto 20 weeks opinion of only medical practitioner would be required.
  • For pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks opinion of two or more medical practitioner would be required.
  • Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board.
  • Includes unmarried women under its ambit (earlier only married women were covered). It relaxes the contraceptive-failure condition for “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”, allowing them to medically terminate the pregnancy.
  • Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed, except to a person authorised in any law that is currently in force.