Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill which seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks for "special categories of women" which include rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled and minors.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which seeks to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 was passed by a voice vote.
Certain amendments moved by opposition members were defeated.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the proposed law allows termination of pregnancies in cases related to rape, incest, minor girls, and pregnancy with substantial foetal abnormalities.
"The bill is the first step towards the safety of women. We have had extensive consultation with several stakeholders. There was also a Group of Ministers and the bill was discussed in great detail," he pointed out.
Vardhan said several petitions have been filed in the courts for termination of pregnancies beyond permissible limits. The Supreme Court saw 26 petitions related to medical termination beyond the prescribed period while the high courts saw over such 100 cases.
"It is a very progressive legislation. Even the courts had said that the law should be reviewed," he said.
One of the salient features of the proposed law is "enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include 'vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc".
If pregnancy has to be terminated in 20 weeks, the opinion of one doctor is required. But beyond that, opinion of two doctors would be needed and one of them has to be a government physician.
Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy is terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law which is in force, according to a provision.