The upper House of the Parliament, that is Rajya Sabha recently introduced a Bill called Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2021.

However, the Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 02, 2020 and was passed on March 17, 2020.

The present Bill amends the 1971 Act called the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. In its statements of objects and Reasons, the Bill states that, several cases were filed before the Apex Court and various High Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at stages beyond 20-weeks limit under the Act, on the grounds of foetal abnormalities, pregnancies due to rape faced by women, etc.

It also states that as there is an advancement of Medical technology raising the upper limit for abortions for vulnerable women and cases in which there is a severe foetal abnormality is possible.

What is the 1971 Act?

Prior to the introduction of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 abortions were considered a criminal offence and was also punishable under the Indian Penal Code.

Eventually, with the introduction of this Act, abortions were no longer a crime but only in special circumstances such as rape, if the pregnancy is a danger for the life of mother etc.

The Act failed to grant the basic right to a woman, right to her womb. It was also criticized on the grounds of being rigid and outdated in nature.

Another challenge which this Act brought with it was that a 20 week period was given. Now here comes the major issue!!! How? Let’s see…..

In cases comprising fetal issues or abnormalities this time period of 20 week was insufficient and if in case the 20 week deadline is not met, the process of abortion becomes much more tiring which gave rise to illegal termination of pregnancies!!

Amendments to the Present Act

The key features of the New Bill are:-

  1. The Bill allows for the termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks.
  2. It also protects the privacy of women who are undergoing abortions as to their name and other pregnancies.
  3. It has laid down the conditions under which the pregnancy can be aborted.
  4. In case there is a foetal abnormality, the bill establishes a Medical Board to examine and regulate the pregnancy.
  5. The Bill gives right of the mother as to her womb and talks about the well-being of women.

What’s the Difference?

After, we have analyzed both MTP Act, 1971 and the MTP Bill,2021, its also important to understand the difference between  the two:-

  1. The Original Act laid down certain grounds for the termination of pregnancy and also put a bar as to the time limit for the same.

The Bill has raised these limits.

  • According to this Act abortions between 12 to 20 weeks, advice of 2 doctors was necessary.

The new bill amended this provision, advice of 1 doctor is sufficient.

However, to terminate the pregnancy between 20-24 weeks, advice of two doctors for some categories of pregnant women is required.

An extension of gestation period of up to 24 weeks is provided in case there is a substantial foetal abnormality.

  • The Act allowed a married women to terminate her pregnancy up to 20 weeks in case of failure of contraceptive method or device.

The bill adds a new clause to it, by allowing the unmarried women to terminate her pregnancy for the same reason.

  • According to the 1971 Act, minors had to take the written consent of the guardian or parents for the said termination.

The new bill removed this requirement.

  • The MTP Act was outdated in many aspects which did not meet the needs of the present society.

The new bill takes cognizance of the current medical concepts and technologies allowing abortions at advanced stages.

So, the present MTP Bill is flexible in nature and allows for safe and legal abortions. This bill comes with a ray of hope as its implementation might completely wipe out the illegal abortions prevalent largely in our country.

Written by Manavi Dhingra

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