Taking a progressive step towards the empowerment of women, the Union Cabinet has accepted the extension of upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 months to 24 months. With this extension, the Centre has moved away
from its previous stance that State's interest in protecting a foetus' life outweighs the right to reproductive autonomy.
There have been demands to raise the foetal gestation period for abortion beyond 20 weeks. The present abortion law, Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which is almost 50 years old, permits abortion up to a maximum foetal gestation period of 20 weeks.
The amendments, once finalised, will provide greater reproductive rights to women as abortion is considered as a significant factor that affects the reproductive health of women. Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable, provided services are performed legally and by trained practitioners.
The Parliament will take up the matter when The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill (2020) will get introduced in the next session.
Following are the planned amendments:-
- To increase the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks
- To extend the contraceptive-failure clause for termination to include “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”.
- The bill proposes that opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks, and two RMPs in case of pregnancy between 20 weeks and 24 weeks, is required.
What about similar laws in other countries?
Countries like the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Ethiopia, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and even Nepal allow for termination beyond 20 weeks on the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities.
Countries that allow abortion at any time of the pregnancy on the request of the mother are Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Denmark, Ghana, and Zambi.