FEATURE: INDIA Prime Minister’s Cabinet tables proposal for abortion law reform
14 February 2020
International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
On 29 January 2020, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Modi published the text of a bill to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The bill is to be introduced in the ensuing session of the Union Parliament, where it will be debated. A summary of the current law, the amendments it proposes, and responses to the bill by leading NGOs working for abortion rights in India are reported below. Text in quotes is taken direct from the source.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971
The 1971 Act says that a pregnancy may be terminated up to 20 weeks of pregnancy with the approval of one registered medical practitioner up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, or the approval of “no less than two registered medical practitioners” from 12 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Approval must be given “in good faith” that:
The proposed liberalisation of abortion rules will ensure dignity, autonomy and justice for women
Published: 11th Feb 2020
The liberalisation of abortion rules in tune with the medical advancements and reproductive rights of women has been long overdue. The 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which imposes a 20-week limit beyond which abortion is prohibited, is regressive and out of sync with the 21st century realities. This has, in fact, proved tragic in many cases. A brutally raped minor was forced to give birth to her rapist’s child after a high court denied her request for abortion because by the time her petition was heard her pregnancy had crossed the 20-week limit prescribed by the law. There can be no greater injustice than this. The situation will, hopefully, change for the better now with the Union Cabinet giving nod for amendments to the Act seeking to raise the permission limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. This is a progressive move as it strengthens access to comprehensive abortion care without compromising on service and quality of safe abortion.
Seeking a more progressive abortion law
February 10, 2020
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill doesn’t do enough to secure women’s choices and interests
Recent reports have shown that more than 10 women die everyday due to unsafe abortions in India, and backward abortion laws only contribute to women seeking illegal and unsafe options. The Cabinet has recently approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (MTP Bill, 2020) which will soon be tabled in Parliament. It seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act) and follows the MTP Bills of 2014, 2017 and 2018, all of which previously lapsed in Parliament.
Why Proposed Amendment to Abortion Law is Small But Significant Victory for Women's Reproductive Rights
Although the law and the proposed amendment sound great on paper, their implementation remain tough given that abortion is still widely stigmatised in India, and there is very little awareness about the laws.
February 1, 2020
Earlier this week, the central government endorsed an amendment in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971), raising the upper limit of pregnancy termination from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. The bill is slated to be tabled for amendment during the current session of Parliament that began on January 31.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the amendment would reduce maternity-related deaths and said, "In a progressive reform and giving reproductive rights to women, the limit of 20 weeks of medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to 24 weeks. This is important because in the first five months, there are cases where the woman concerned doesn't realise and has to go to court."
Is India’s Abortion Law Going To Get Better With 24 Weeks Upper Limit?
January 31, 2020
by Poorvi Gupta
This week on Wednesday, centre backed a bill that seeks to increase the upper limit of termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will be tabled in the upcoming session of parliament that opens on Friday, January 31.
The bill focuses on increasing access to safe and legal abortion to women on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds. It is looking at boosting the upper gestation limit for abortion and to bolster access to comprehensive abortion care, under strict conditions, without compromising service and quality of safe abortion.
A deliverance: On pregnancy termination bill
January 31, 2020
Extending the period of medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks is a boon for many
The borders of viability of a particular process are often only as restrictive as the technology on which it rides. In some cases, as science advances, the elastic borders of viability will weave out to accommodate much more than they did in the past. The Centre’s move to extend the limit of medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks is a sagacious recognition of this, and needs to be feted. The extension is significant, the government reasoned, because in the first five months of pregnancy, some women realise the need for an abortion very late. Usually, the foetal anomaly scan is done during the 20th-21st week of pregnancy. If there is a delay in doing this scan, and it reveals a lethal anomaly in the foetus, 20 weeks is limiting. Obstetricians argue that this has also spurred a cottage industry of places providing unsafe abortion services, even leading, in the worst of cases, to the death of the mother.
Abortions: 61 lakh in five years, but issues remain
December 11, 2019
By Kerean Watts
Giving a written reply to a question posed in the Lok Sabha, Choubey said that the Government was taking steps to ensure access to safe abortions in the country through the Centre’s programme concerning reproductive maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition. In addition, he informed that states and union territories are provided with support to provide comprehensive abortion care under the National Health Mission, including certifying facilities operated by the private sector and non-government organisations where safe and comprehensive abortion care is provided.
Unsafe abortion is a major issue in India. As many as 56 percent of such procedures carried out in the country are considered to be unsafe, with unsafe abortions responsible for the deaths of thirteen women every day in India.
A pregnant silence on reproductive rights of women
The country needs to recognise the wrongs and affirm the rights for advancing women’s sexual and reproductive health
Monday, 25 November 2019
Young women (15-24 years) constitute 11 per cent of India’s population, out of whom 41 per cent have faced sexual violence, 27 per cent are married before the legal age and 7.8 per cent (15-19 years) become mothers or are pregnant. The data on access to information on contraceptives reveals that only 17.7 per cent were informed about family planning by health workers and just 6.9 per cent women in Bihar and 11.6 per cent in Uttar Pradesh (UP) reported using contraceptives within marriage.
The policy level commitments on health, education and gender parity often look in absolute terms of changing certain societal norms through cash transfer based schemes, number of girls reported to be married before the legal age of marriage, status of body mass index and nutrition and sometimes enrollment in school and skill development among women. While evidence in these parameters are significant, this skewed approach to gender equality leaves out a range of issues, including prevalence of sexual violence and status of accessible sexual and reproductive health services. Stigma and fear attached to young women’s sexuality act as a major barrier in achieving gender equality.
How India's Most Important Law for Children's Safety is Leading to Unsafe Abortions Among Teenagers
The conflict of the POCSO and the MTP Act is making doctors hesitant to provide services to girls under-18 due to fear of prosecution, and teenaged girls apprehensive of seeking abortion services from legal providers, in turn, forcing them to seek unsafe abortion measures.
October 23, 2019
Delhi: A few days after discovering she is pregnant, Rekha*, along with her mother, went to Dr Samir R Pradhan, a gynaecologist in Mumbai. She wanted an abortion. The doctor tried to determine her age through her Aadhaar card but it mentioned only her year of birth.
Her school documents revealed that she's a couple of months short of 18 - anything less than that age means there can be no consent involved in sex. Or, that's what the law says. "An act of sex with a woman below 18 years is considered to be rape and we are bound by the law to inform the authorities," Dr Pradhan says.
Indian Women Seeking Abortions Are Petitioning the Courts, Even When They Don’t Need To
By Anubha Rastogi
Oct 4, 2019
In the past three years, there has been an increasing and worrying trend of pregnant women approaching courts of law, either directly or indirectly, seeking permission for terminating the pregnancy that they are carrying.
Initially, these were all cases that were above the 20-week limit that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act sets out. However, a recent study by the Pratigya Campaign shows that even cases of gestational age at 8 weeks and 12 weeks have gone to court seeking permission.