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Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features, need for amendments and significance.

Context: Moving to ease abortion laws in the country, the Union Cabinet is set to consider a host of changes to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

Changes planned:

  1. Among others, amendments seek to increase the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks.
  2. It also seeks to extend the contraceptive-failure clause for termination to include “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”.
  3. The draft Bill proposes requirement of opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
  4. It also provides for the requirement of opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
  5. The Bill also seeks to increase the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women.
  6. For unmarried women, the Bill seeks to relax 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.

Need for overhaul:

The present abortion law, which is about five decades old, permits abortion up to a maximum foetal gestation period of 20 weeks.

In recent years, there have been strong demands to raise the foetal gestation period for abortion beyond 20 weeks.

 Significance:

The move to amend the MTP Act, 1971 is a progressive step towards empowerment of women. It will provide greater reproductive rights to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women. Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.

Abortion laws across the world:

Abortion laws vary across the world. It is learnt that around 60 countries prescribe gestational limits.

  1. 52 % including France, the UK, Austria, Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and even Nepal, allow for termination beyond 20 weeks on the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities.
  2. Some countries go beyond even these limits with laws in 23 countries-Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Denmark, Ghana, and Zambia-allowing for abortion at any time during the pregnancy on the request of the mother.
  3. In UK, abortions are allowed at up to 24 weeks, with abortion guidelines formulated by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists including procedures for termination of pregnancies older than 20 weeks. It also states that, in pregnancy older than 21 weeks and 6 days, an injection to cause foetal death is given before the foetus is evacuated.

Sources: the Hindu.