The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2021, was recently approved by the Rajya Sabha. The bill aims to make changes to the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. The bill modifies a variety of laws that were previously ambiguous, derogatory, or based on obsolete medical standards. The bill has sparked conversations about human rights, including women’s rights to their wombs. The bill was introduced in response to several PILs filed in the Supreme Court and various High Courts, as well as the demands of various NGOs and civil societies working for women’s and human rights.
CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF EXISTING BILL
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 was an earlier piece of abortion legislation. Prior to this, ending a pregnancy was considered a criminal act that was punishable under Indian law. The act of ending a pregnancy voluntarily was treated as a criminal offence. In 1971, a law was passed that allowed abortion in certain cases, such as rape, danger to the mother’s life, and so on. The act was passed with the goal of reducing the death rate caused by unsafe and illegal abortions while also controlling unintended pregnancies and protecting maternal health.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 was chastised for its antiquated medical principles and lack of regard for women’s rights. The act took away a woman’s right to her womb and denied her consent or willingness to have an abortion. The current act’s 20-week cap was inadequate in dealing with cases involving foetal problems or anomalies. In the case of a 20-week deadline, the abortion process was very harassing and stressful, which helped in the rise of illicit pregnancies. Women would rather get an illegal abortion than go through the painful treatments after 20 weeks.
The 20-week cap was focused on 1970s medical science principles that have since been replaced by new medical science concepts. Scientific advancements such as abortion pills and aspirations have made the procedure safer and more extendable. Only in the 21st week of pregnancy is an impairment scan possible. After 20 weeks, the complicated and exhausting procedure has led to women opting for unlawful abortions and a higher incidence of unsafe abortions.
CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF THE 2020 BILL
The bill extends the time limit for abortion to 24 weeks, up from the previous 20 weeks, for vulnerable women such as rape survivors, differentially abled women, minors, and incest victims. However, there is no specified age limit for gestational age in cases of pregnancies of significant foetal abnormality declared and approved by the medical board. The bill also aims to give women up to a certain degree of power over their wombs. Just one provider will be required for terminations occurring during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, while two doctors’ opinions will be required for terminations occurring between the 20th and the 24th week of pregnancy. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (prsindia.org)
The bill also seeks to protect the privacy of women who are having abortions by stating that names and other personal information will not be disclosed to others unless they are legally approved. Even the bill makes contraceptive failure a cause for abortion, and it extends to both the woman and her partner. On a medical, social, and humanitarian level, the bill ensures that women have secure and legal access to pregnancy. It advances the well-being and development of women’s health and their right to use their wombs. It establishes the circumstances in which a pregnancy may be terminated.
The main issue and source of contention within the scope of such a law on abortion is differing viewpoints on the topic. Many people claim that it is a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a pregnancy and whether or not to terminate it, although it is the state’s responsibility to protect the unborn foetus’ life.
ENCOUNTERS AND ISSUES IN THE NEW BILL
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2021, however, is not the magic line in the same; it also has some fundamental shortcomings that could be a significant impediment to achieving its target. The act’s main flaws or flaws may be a major explanation for its ineffectiveness. The bill specifies that a doctor appointed under the act has the power to determine whether or not to terminate a pregnancy after 24 weeks. This introduces a new channel or procedure to navigate, making those approvals more difficult and out of reach for many women. There is no time limit for the medical board to make a decision, resulting in delays and inadequate implementation and execution.
The bill has put women’s categorisation in the hands of the executive; it would be irrational to reject the parliament and place it in the hands of the executive. The bill is silent on transgender issues and stipulates that abortion must be protected and performed by a licensed medical practitioner, despite the fact that India already has a 75% shortage of qualified physicians. In such a scenario, enacting such provisions would be a hollow pledge because we lack infrastructure in both the rural and urban sectors. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2020: What Are the Pros & Cons of Changes to Our Abortion Law? (thequint.com)
Many countries around the world have abortion legislation; in fact, abortion is legal in nearly 97 countries around the world. In terms of social, religious, and human rights progress, the regulation differs from state to state. WHO released comprehensive technical and policy recommendations in 2003 to assist governments all over the world? The gestation age has been determined up to 12 weeks in many countries. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill of 2021 is a progressive piece of legislation passed by the legislature to control abortion and facilitate safe and legal abortion. The act’s proper implementation will undoubtedly reduce the number of women’s deaths and increase the number of cases of safe and legal abortion.