Currently, abortions are allowed until 20 weeks of pregnancy, and those who sought abortions beyond that had to go to court to get approvals.

Cabinet gives nod for allowing abortions upto 24 weeks
news Health Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 16:08

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which proposes to extend the upper time limit to terminate a pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. The Bill seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, and will be introduced in the upcoming Budget session of the Parliament.

“The limit of 20 weeks for medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to 24 weeks. This was important because in the first five months, the concerned girl doesn’t realise and then they have to go to the courts,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar announced during a press conference on Cabinet decisions. 

“This was widely discussed with stakeholders. There was a group of ministers under Nitin Gadkari and this will impact positively on reducing maternal mortality. After 20 weeks, people were not getting official permission, people used to resort to informal channels and unsafe MTPs and thereby, it used to be a big problem,” he added. Unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal mortality in India. 

India is one of the few countries in the world that allows a woman above 18 years of age to legally abort or terminate her pregnancy, and up until now, allowed women to terminate pregnancies upto 20 weeks under the following conditions — (a) when the pregnancy involves a risk to the life of the foetus, (b) when the continuation of pregnancy is a risk to the pregnant woman or causes grave injury to her physical or mental health, (c) when the pregnancy is caused due to rape, and (d) when it is caused due to the failure of contraceptives used by a married woman.

As per the current law, a pregnancy can be aborted upto 12 weeks based on the opinion of one doctor, and between 12 and 20 weeks, the opinion of two doctors is required to terminate the pregnancy. The reasoning behind this is to curb sex selection, as the sex of the foetus can be determined after 12 weeks. The proposed bill that has got the approval of the Cabinet says that only those seeking to terminate pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks need a second doctor’s opinion. Javadekar said that this will help adolescent girls, rape survivors and others. 

According to the Times of India, the proposed law seeks to extend the ambit of termination of pregnancies to unmarried women also. Currently, failure of contraceptive and unwanted pregnancies could be cited as reasons only by married women. 

Read: How stigma and restricted access stop Indian women from seeking safe abortions

 
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