LS passes Bill to extend 24 hrs abortion limit for vulnerable women
New Delhi, March 17 (IANS): The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a Bill to legalise and raise the upper limit of abortion from the present 20 to 24 weeks for “special categories of women” that include rape survivors, differently-abled and victims of incest.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, that provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote following the concluding remarks of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, making it easier for women to safely and legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Currently, women seeking to terminate pregnancy beyond 20 weeks have to face a cumbersome legal recourse. This denies the reproductive rights of women (as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women).
The Medical Bill, 2020 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 2 — Day 1 of the second leg of Budget Session.
The Union Cabinet on January 29 had given its approval to present the Bill before the Parliament as it facilitates better access for women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds.
The Bill adds the definition of termination of pregnancy to mean a procedure undertaken to terminate a pregnancy by using medical or surgical methods.
Under the Act, a pregnancy may be terminated within 12 weeks, if a registered medical practitioner is of the opinion that continuation of the pregnancy may risk the life of the mother, or cause grave injury to her health, or there is a substantial risk that the child, if born, would suffer physical or mental abnormalities.
For termination of a pregnancy between 12 and 20 weeks, two medical practitioners are required to give their opinions.
The Bill amends this provision to state that a pregnancy may be terminated within 20 weeks, with the opinion of a registered medical practitioner. Approval of two registered medical practitioners will be required for termination of pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks.
The termination of pregnancies up to 24 weeks will only apply to specific categories of women, as may be prescribed by the Central government. Further, the Central government will notify the norms for the medical practitioner whose opinion is required for the termination of pregnancy.