- Abortion has been legalised in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act since 1971.
- According to the Act, abortion can be provided at the discretion of a medical provider under certain conditions.
- Act had two goals — to control the population resulting from unintended pregnancies and to reduce the increasing maternal mortality and morbidity due to illegal, unsafe abortions.
Need of amendments now:
- It was just a year ago when a 10-year-old girl got pregnant after being raped by her uncles.
- Both the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Supreme Court, advised by a doctors’ panel, refusing her permission to terminate it.
- Hence timely justice to our women and young girl was denied.
- Act has limitations that pose barriers to women and girls seeking legal abortions.
- Though abortion was legalised almost 50 years ago, a woman’s right to decide for herself, did not and still does not fall within the intent or ambit of the MTP Act.
- Currently, the Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks.
- However, when it comes to foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from rape, this limit is proving to be a hurdle for both the woman and the provider.
- Women seeking an abortion after the legal gestation limit ,often have no option but to appeal to the courts and run from pillar to post for permission to terminate the pregnancy.
Amendments suggested by Ministry:
- In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognised these barriers and proposed certain amendments to the Act.
- Thus an increasing in the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors and other vulnerable women and removing the gestation limit in case of foetal abnormalities was brought in.
- In 2017, these amendments were returned to the ministry with the mandate to strengthen the implementation of the MTP Act as it stands.
Result of denial of abortions:
- Many women, when denied legal abortions, turn to unqualified providers or adopt unsafe methods of termination.
- Estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2001-03, indicate that unsafe abortions account for 8 percent of maternal deaths in India.
- Adopting and implementing the amendments will take us a few steps closer towards ensuring that all girls and women have access to safe abortion services.
- According to a study published in The Lancet recently, 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 out of which about 11.5 million took place outside health facilities.
- Abortion is at the centre of global conversations on reproductive health and rights.
- India had once led this in the forefront by legalising abortions.
- Hence its the time to regain the position and make it personalised according to the needs of the hour.