Medical Termination Of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020
This Blog is written by Sidrah Jami from Amity Law School, Noida. Edited by Naina Agarwal.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed by the Indian Legislature in 1971. This act has been considered a bold move in Indian society. It focused on the unwanted pregnancies in the country. The paper firstly provides an introduction to the abortion laws in India and abroad. Secondly, the act paper focuses on the significance of the development and impact after passing of this act and later after passing of the amendment bill in 2020 with different changes in provisions of the Act. Thirdly, the paper deals with the statutory provisions given under the Act and the case laws related to it. The last section provides an analysis of the act and a conclusion of the same.
In the last thirty years, there have been many countries that have liberalized their laws related to abortion. The process of liberalization continued after 1980. In today’s world, only 85 percent of the population resides in countries that have prohibited abortion. Many countries have restricted abortion laws. There are different opinions related to abortion. Some people say that termination of pregnancy is part of the reproductive rights of a woman and provides a choice to the woman. The other opinion related to abortion is that there is an obligation for the protection of all lives therefore there should be a proper mechanism for the protection of the fetus. In the United Kingdom, a pregnancy can be terminated at any point in time under different circumstances like firstly to protect the life of the woman. Secondly, to prevent any type of serious or permanent injury which can be in form of physical or mental health. Thirdly, if there is a risk that the child can be handicapped then also the pregnancy can be terminated. The Shantilal Shah Committee in India was the first committee that recommended the liberalization of abortion laws to reduce the maternal morbidity and mortality that is associated with illegitimate abortion in 1964. This led to the passing of The Medical Termination of pregnancy bill.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DEVELOPMENT
The Indian Legislature passed The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill in 1971 in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha in the Indian Parliament. It was passed in August 1971. Later the Medical termination Pregnancy Act was implemented. This act was enacted to legalize the regulation of conditions related to the termination of pregnancy. The act focused on the termination of pregnancies. It also focused on the termination of pregnancy in only some cases. The act provided certain conditions under which pregnancy was allowed to be aborted. It also emphasized that there should be a registered qualified medical practitioner to perform the process of termination of pregnancy. On 29 January the Union Cabinet passed the Medical Termination (Amendment) Bill 2020 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare got many changes in the termination of pregnancy act after wide consultation with different stakeholders, doctors, and ministries. It focused on providing easy access to women to the services that are related to abortion.
After the implementation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 impacted the women in the nation. The bill firstly provided a wider scope and helped the women residing in the country to decide whether they would like to terminate the pregnancy or not. It helped the women to decide upon the abortion. It was considered to be one of the strongest feminist movement in India. Secondly, the bill helped and provided safeguards for special categories. It focused on providing services like humanitarian, therapeutic, eugenic. The amendments focused on increasing the upper gestation period for termination of pregnancy for women in special category to strengthen the access to abortion care without compromising safe abortion. The amendment focused to increase the upper limit for termination from 20-24 weeks for some categories of women. It focuses on the removal of the limit of substantial fetal abnormalities and the constitution of Medical Boards at the state level. It focuses on advancing medical technology to increase the upper limit for terminating pregnancies. The act specifies the different types of grounds for termination of pregnancy and provides a specification of the time limit for terminating a pregnancy. There have been various changes that have been proposed in conditions for termination of pregnancy at different periods.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 took the advice of one doctor up to 12 weeks since conception however the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020 focused on taking the advice of one doctor up to 12 weeks. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 took the advice of two doctors from 12 to 20 weeks since conception however the MTP (Amendment) Bill 2020 focused on taking the advice of one doctor. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971 didn’t take any advice from doctors during the period of 20-24 weeks however the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020 took the advice of two doctors for some pregnant women during the period of 20-24 weeks since conception. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 didn’t take any advice from doctors in more than 24 weeks however under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Medical Board was allowed in case of substantial fetal abnormality in more than 24 weeks since conception.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020 proposed various changes like:
1) Failure of contraceptive methods leading to termination: Under this, a woman who is married or unmarried is allowed to terminate her pregnancy up to 20 weeks.
2) Medical Boards: It provides that there should be an establishment of a medical board in state and union territories by the government. The Boards should decide whether the pregnancy should be terminated after 24 weeks because of the fetal abnormalities. There should be an existence of radiologists, sonologist, gynecologists, pediatricians, and other people who should be notified by the state government.
3) Privacy: It provides that the medical practitioner who is registered should reveal the details of the pregnant woman who terminated her pregnancy to only the person who has been authorized by law. If the details are told to any person then that person who conveyed the information will be held liable for a fine, imprisonment of one year or both.
The amendment was made for abortion of pregnancies at a gestational period that was beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of fetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
Section 2 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 lays down that if there is a person whose name has been registered in the medical register of state and if he experiences of training in obstetrics or gynecology will be allowed to conduct the termination of pregnancy.
Section 3 (4) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act provides related to the consent which is necessary for the termination of pregnancy.
It says that no woman below 18 years will be allowed to terminate the pregnancy without the consent of the guardian. It also lays down that the termination of pregnancy should not be conducted without the consent of the woman. Consent is considered necessary for the termination of the pregnancy. It is essential for the termination of pregnancy. The consent of the husband is considered irrelevant. The consent of the guardian is necessary for the termination of pregnancy of a woman who is either a minor or a lunatic.
Section 4 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act deals with the place where a pregnancy is terminated. It lays down that an operation should take place only in a proper hospital that has been maintained and established by the government or any type of place which has been approved by the government for conducting the process of termination of pregnancy.
Section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act lays down that a doctor will be allowed to terminate a pregnancy if he feels that it is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.
Under the case of Suchita Srivastava & Anr. v. Chandigarh Administration , the orphaned and mentally retarded woman became pregnant because of rape which happened in a government institution in Chandigarh. She didn’t have parents or guardians therefore the state had the responsibility to take care of her. The institution saw that the woman was pregnant when she was gestating at nine weeks. The government of Chandigarh filed a petition before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana for termination of pregnancy however the woman wanted to continue her pregnancy. The woman later approached the Supreme Court when she was 19 weeks pregnant and the statutory limit of abortion is 20 weeks. The case was challenged according to Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 which dealt that the consent of the woman will be considered necessary for the termination of pregnancy. The SC held that Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 deals with consent. Consent is considered to be a necessary part of the termination of pregnancy who isn’t suffering from any type of mental illness and has attained the age of majority. It laid down that women are provided with reproductive rights under Article 21 which deals with the right to life, dignity, privacy, and bodily integrity.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020 has provided the right direction for the government to ensure proper norms and protocols which are needed in clinical practice for efficient facilitation of abortions which can be followed in the health care institutions all across the nation. It has helped in providing a strong base and principles for human rights and advancements in medical technologies. The bill focused on providing amendments for proposing the enhancements for the upper limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks which will include survivors of rape and vulnerable women like minors and disabled women. It also focused on establishing a proper medical board that will help in the conduction of the termination of pregnancy. It also focused that there should be one medical practitioner for a pregnancy of up to 20 weeks and two medical practitioners for a pregnancy of between 20 – 24 weeks.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act focused on the elimination of unwanted pregnancies. It emphasized that the consent of the woman is considered to be important for the termination of pregnancy. Women Activists believed that this was considered as a big step. It helped in providing a wider framework for the abortion regime which provided wider reproductive rights to the woman. It was considered a major achievement in the Indian era. It helped in providing a safe environment for a woman who wanted to terminate her pregnancy. The government should conduct nationwide programs to make the citizens aware of their rights and choices in the country.
 (2009) 9 SCC 1