Abortion laws: Centre approves termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks gestation period

FE Online
abortion, termination of pregnancy, abortion rules India, maternal mortality rate, cases of abortion in court, rape pregnancies termination period, pregnancy termination period, Prakash Javadekar

Abortion limit: The upper limit for permitting abortions has been extended from 20 weeks to 24 weeks after the approval of the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. However, this extension is only applicable to some women, including rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled and minors, according to an official statement. The change comes as Cabinet approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020. This bill will amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971. The Bill would be introduced in the Parliament for further discussion in the Budget session, which is scheduled to commence on January 31. The news was given to the media by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar.

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Javadekar said the move will ensure that pregnancies can be terminated safely and it will also give women rights over their own bodies. Moreover, it will also help those victims of rape, minors or differently-abled girls who might not realise they are pregnant and give them more time.

However, the extension comes with the condition that for the termination of pregnancy till 20 weeks, only one doctor’s opinion would be required, but for gestation period beyond that, two doctors would have to give their opinions, and one of them is required to be a government physician, Javadekar revealed. The official statement said that the particulars of the woman whose pregnancy will be terminated shall not be disclosed to anyone except to a person who is legally authorised.

Javadekar said that the limit is increased because in the first five months of pregnancy, the girl concerned sometimes may not realise that she is pregnant and she would also need time to go to court to get permission. He further said that the discussion was held with various stakeholders. He added that the reform would reduce the maternal mortality rate also.

According to the statement, the upper limit for pregnancy termination would not be applicable in cases where the Medical Board diagnoses foetal abnormalities. The details about the Medical Board, however, would be subsequently framed under the Act.

The amendment aims to increase the access of women to safe and legal abortion services.

The move came after several petitions were submitted to court seeking termination of pregnancy after the permissible limit on the grounds of pregnancies due to sexual abuse or foetal abnormalities.