The Rajya Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) in March 2021. The bill was passed by the lower house in 2020. This is an important bill that seeks to increase the reproductive rights of women in India. In this article, you can read all about the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the principal act enacted in 1971 for UPSC UPSC exam.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 Provisions -

The Bill seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971. This act covers abortion in India. It was revised in 1975 and 2002. Before the enactment of this law, abortion was prohibited under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code. As per this MTP Act, 1971, a pregnancy can be medically terminated by a registered medical practitioner:

  1. Where the length of pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks (for this, a doctor's opinion was required).
  2. Where the length of pregnancy has exceeded twelve weeks but does not exceed 20 weeks. In this case, for a miscarriage to occur, the two doctors must be of the opinion that the continuation of the pregnancy would impair the mother's mental and/or physical health, and/or that the child, if to be born, would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities. , which will make it disabled.
  3. The law also required minor pregnant women to obtain written consent from a guardian to permit an abortion.

Proposed features of the new bill:

  1. Increasing the upper limit of gestation period from 20 to 24 weeks for special category of women, as will be defined in the amendments to be made in the MTP Rules, and will cover rape victims, incest victims and other vulnerable women. (eg women with disabilities, minors) etc. will be included.
  2. Termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation will require the opinion of one provider (physician) and for termination of pregnancy up to 20-24 weeks of gestation, the opinion of two providers (doctors).
  3. The upper limit of gestation period will not be applicable in cases of serious fetal abnormalities as determined by the Medical Board in order of diagnosis. The composition of the Medical Board, its functions and other details relating thereto shall be prescribed in the rules covered under this Act.
  4. The name and other details of the woman who terminates the pregnancy shall not be disclosed to any person other than a person authorized in any law.
  5. The grounds for failure of contraception have been extended to women and their partners.
  6. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 aims to expand women's access to safe and legally recognized services of abortion on medical, eugenic, humane or social grounds. These amendments aim to increase the upper limit of gestation for termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances and strengthen access to intensive care facilities during abortion under strict conditions without compromising the service and quality of safe abortion.
  7. Sub-sections have been replaced and certain new conditions have been inserted under certain sections of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  8. This bill is a step towards the safety and welfare of women and many women will benefit from it. Recently, a number of petitions were filed in the courts by various women to allow abortions beyond the current permissible limit of gestational age on the basis of the contention of pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities or sexual violence.
  9. These amendments will increase women's scope and access to safe abortion services and ensure dignity, autonomy, privacy and justice for women who need to terminate a pregnancy.

Requirement of MTP Amendment Bill -

The amendment was introduced in Parliament as there were some concerns in the old Act, which have now been addressed.

  1. Amendments were required in the MTP Act as it was outdated in many aspects and failed to take cognizance of the latest developments in medical science. Current medical technology allows abortion in advanced stages of pregnancy.
  2. In addition, the provision for minors requiring abortion to obtain written consent from parents/guardians was in some cases regressive. The new bill has removed this requirement.
  3. In the old enactments, the Lakhuan caused multiple abortions and unqualified people ran illegal abortion clinics, putting the lives of many women at risk. It is hoped that the new amendments will help address these issues and lead to more abortions in the organized domain, in which qualified medical practitioners can make decisions and perform safe abortions.

Table showing the MTP Act, 1971 and the MTP Amendment Bill, 2021 -

Time since conception Need for abortion

MTP Act, 1971 The MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Up to 12 weeks A doctor's advice A doctor's advice
12 - 20 weeks Two doctors advice A doctor's advice
20 - 24 weeks No permission Two doctors' advice for certain categories of pregnant women
More than 24 weeks No permission Medical board in case of fetal abnormality
At any time during pregnancy A doctor if abortion is necessary immediately to save the life of the pregnant woman

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 Benefits -

The intended benefits of passing amendments are discussed below.

  • Many fetal abnormalities are detected only after the twentieth week of pregnancy.
  • The new provisions will cater to such cases.
  • The amended law would allow rape victims, disabled and minor women to have unwanted pregnancies safely and legally.
  • The bill also applied to unmarried women, thus removing a regressive clause of the 1971 Act that said unmarried women could not have an abortion, citing contraceptive failure as the reason.
  • The right of unmarried women to legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy to protect their identity would confer reproductive rights on women.

MTP Amendment Bill Concerns -

Some concerns have also been raised regarding the new amendments. some of them are:

  1. Society in general still prefers male child and there are many illegal clinics which facilitate sex determination which is banned. There is a concern that a more liberal abortion law could exacerbate the problem of female feticide.
  2. Late termination of pregnancy may be in conflict with the viability of the fetus. Viability is the length of time the embryo can live outside the mother's womb. Viability improves with upgrades in medical technology.
  3. There is a shortage of qualified doctors and, despite the new law, access to safe abortion for women may still be impaired.
  4. Another concern with the bill is that the 20-week cap on abortion is arbitrary. Many fetal abnormalities are found in the 18 - 22 week window, when the fetus is said to be quite developed.
  5. There is also an ethical point of view on the issue of abortion. People believe that the state has to protect all life including the life of the unborn fetus.

Abortion laws around the world:

Abortion laws vary greatly across countries in the world. Countries can be broadly classified into five categories based on the legal status of abortion.

Class Abortion Legal Status (as of March 2021)
1 Totally banned (Iraq, Philippines, Jamaica, Suriname, Egypt, Senegal, etc.)
2 Permission granted to save woman's life (Mexico, Brazil, Uganda, Somalia, Venezuela, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, etc.)
3 Permission has been given to preserve health (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Algeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Colombia, South Korea, etc.).
4 Based on broad social or economic grounds (India, Japan, Ethiopia, Great Britain, Finland, Zambia and Taiwan)
5 On request - gestational limits vary - the most common is 12 weeks (Russia, China, Australia, Thailand, USA, Canada, South Africa, Spain, France, Sweden, Germany, etc.)
  Last update :  Sat 18 Mar 2023
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