The Rajya Sabha has passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which increases the upper limit allowed for the termination of a pregnancy—from 20 weeks to 24 weeks—under a certain special categories of women. However, those opposed have demanded the bill go under further scrutiny by a select committee. While introducing the Bill, Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and Minister of Earth Sciences, is said to have told the House that it was only after extensive consultations, and an approval process by the Ethics Committee and a Group of Ministers headed by Nitin Gadkari that the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. What’s more, Vardhan reiterated the belief that the Bill is a step towards the safety and well-being of women, and it will widen their access to safer, and legal abortions without compromising on safety and quality of care. This move will also ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality, and justice for women who need to terminate a pregnancy.
Here are the highlights of the recently-passed Bill:
• The Bill allows abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy for certain special categories of women as defined by the states in the amendments, and will include rape survivors, victims of incest, those with disabilities, and minors. It ensures that women get access to safe and legal abortion facilities on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian grounds.• The opinion of one doctor will be required for termination of pregnancy till 20 weeks while opinion of two doctors will be needed for aborting from 20 to 24 weeks, and both will have to agree that continuing with the pregnancy might pose a risk to the mother’s life, or mental well-being; grounds for termination is also permitted if the child might suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality. For a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities, the opinion of the state-level medical board is essential. The current Bill states that the termination of a pregnancy requires the opinion of one doctor if done within 12 weeks of conception, and two doctors between 12 and 20 weeks.• The Bill also specifies that personal details of the woman whose pregnancy is terminated will not be revealed, except to a person authorised in any law which is in force. Any person violating this provision will be punished with imprisonment which may extended to one year, or with fine, or both.
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