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Tags Current Affairs

Changes in abortion law

Date: 01 February 2020 Tags: Bills & Laws

Issue

The Union Cabinet has cleared a long-pending change to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 that raises the legally permissible limit for an abortion to 24 weeks from the current 20 weeks.

 

Background

Recently several petitions were received by the Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.

 

Details

  • The change also accepts failure of contraception as a valid reason for abortion not just in married but also in unmarried women.

  • It increases the maximum permissible gestation age for abortion to 24 weeks, with the proviso that for pregnancies that are between 20-24 weeks opinions will be required from two doctors rather than one.

  • This has been specially done keeping in mind “vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc.

  • The upper gestation limit will not apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by a Medical Board. This clause has been put to keep such cases out of courts.

Significance of changes

  • Despite a sustained government push over years, contraceptive use in India is not very popular. According to a study, 50% of pregnancies in six of the larger Indian states, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, are unintended.

  • Estimation of unintended pregnancies is important because many of them result in abortions and the availability of cheap and safe abortion services is one of the indicators of a robust health system.

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