TOPIC: GS PAPER II POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States
When India introduced the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1971, it set a 20-week deadline for abortions, which was an arbitrary decision then, and now ignores the medical advances India has made. The Indian government remains reluctant to change the law fearing its misuse for sex-selective abortions. But the 20-week deadline has hit victims of sexual assault, especially the very young whose pregnancies are detected late.
What is Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill?
The draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 seeks to amend Section 3 of the principle The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 to provide that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a fetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities as may be prescribed”.
Why should the MTP Act be amended?
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in India was amended in 2003 to facilitate better implementation and increase access for women especially in the private health sector. However, unsafe abortions are widely prevalent even 40 years after the Act came into force.
The current Act does not allow abortions above the gestational age of 20 weeks. However, legal experts have argued that medical science and technology have made the 20-week ceiling redundant and that conclusive determination of foetal abnormality is possible in most cases after the 20th week of gestational age.
What are the main features of the 2014 draft Amendment bill?
Besides increasing the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the draft Bill allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider. Under the 1971 Act, even pregnant rape victims cannot abort after 20 weeks, compelling them to move court.
What is the current status of Medical Termination of Pregnancy?
The 2014 draft is yet to see light. With the 2014 Bill in limbo, the Supreme Court is the last resort of the affected people. The Court has agreed to look into whether a wider interpretation ought to be given to phrases like “risk to the life of the pregnant woman” and “grave injury to her physical and mental health”.
“NOT A WOMAN‘S CHOICE”
The benefits of MTP Act to women are very precious but they should be backed by the proper implementation. In order to stop misuse of the Act, the aggressive education and awareness programme on family planning is needed along with penetration of contraceptives to remote areas and their availability. The risks of abortion that a woman has to take while undergoing it has to be popularized. The responsibility and the respect of the unborn child have to be understood by the people.
QUESTION ARISING FROM THIS TOPIC:
Q1) What is Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act? What are the important provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act? Why is there a demand for its amendment? Explain.
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