Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, expanded the applicability and accessibility horizons of abortion rules in India. This article discusses the changes made in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 due to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act of 2021.
Key Features of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021
- Increase in the upper gestation period from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for special category of women, which includes rape survivors, incest victims and other vulnerable women (which will include minors, specially-abled women etc.)
- Provision related to the privacy of women who are terminating their pregnancy is also included in the amendment Act, which says that women’s identity will not be revealed. It can be revealed only to the person who is legally authorised for the time being enforced.
- In case of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the medical board, the upper gestation period will not be applicable.
Major Differences Between the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act of 2021 and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971
- The new amendment Act increases the applicability and accessibility of the legal abortion provisions to unmarried pregnant women as well (citing contraceptive failures as a reason), which was not there in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971.
- Under the new amendment Act, for termination of pregnancy from 12 to 20 weeks, advice of only one doctor is required, whereas in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, advice of 2 doctors was mandated. [Section 3(2)(a)]
- Under the new amendment Act, abortion from 20 to 24 weeks is allowed with the advice of 2 doctors, whereas under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, abortion beyond 20 weeks was not allowed. [Section 3(2)(b)]
- Under the new amendment Act, abortion beyond 24 weeks is allowed on the advice and permission of the medical board for substantial foetal abnormality, whereas an abortion beyond 24 weeks was not allowed in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971.
X vs the Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare Department & Anr (2022)
In this case, the Supreme Court, in its own wording, cited that:
“There is no doubt that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of “personal liberty” as understood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It is important to recognise that reproductive choices can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating. The crucial consideration is that a woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected. This means that there should be no restriction whatsoever on the exercise of reproductive choices such as a woman’s right to refuse participation in sexual activity or alternatively the insistence on the use of contraceptive methods.”
The Act in itself, thus, recognises the importance of the liberty of a woman and the right of a woman on her bodily matters as has been clarified by the Supreme Court in its judgement which also removes a biased distinction between a married and unmarried woman when it comes to abortion laws.
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