On 24th September 2021, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 came into force with effect. The Bill of the Amendment was passed on 16th March 2021. The Act amends Section 3 of the Act increasing the time for the medical termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for certain categories of women which are defined under the Act.
STATEMENT OF OBJECTS
The reasons embodied with the act for the amendment are that since medical technology has advanced drastically it is possible to increase the gestational limit especially for vulnerable women such as rape victims or women with prominent foetal anomalies which might be detected late in pregnancy.
Another reason was that there is a need for providing women with legal and safe abortions so that unsafe abortions could be prevented in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.
Section 3 of the Act elaborates that when can medical pregnancies be terminated by registered medical practitioners.
Section 4 emphasizes the ground rules regarding the termination of pregnancy, the Section provides the conditions which need to be fulfilled for the pregnancy to be terminated legally, which are as follows -
- A hospital established or maintained by the Government
- A place approved by the Government for the time being to comply by the purpose of this act.
Under this section, there are other conditions such as the medical practitioner can terminate the pregnancy only if -
- The length of the pregnancy has not crossed the limitation period of 20 weeks
- The length of pregnancy has crossed 20 weeks but has not exceeded 24 weeks, for the women as prescribed by the Act can be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
However, in this case, two registered medical practitioners looking into the case should be of the opinion that if the pregnancy continues it would be gravely dangerous for the life of the pregnant woman or cause grave injury to her mental or physical health, OR if the life of the child is at substantial risks, such as it would suffer from any physical or mental abnormality.
Clause (A) suggests that if the pregnancy occurs despite the woman or her partner using a method or any device to limit the number of children or to avoid the pregnancy, the problem that the woman faces due to such a pregnancy falls under the criterion of grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.
The explanation for the purpose of both the clauses is that if the pregnancy is caused by rape, the pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.
The Act states that the opinion of one doctor is necessary for the termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks, while for the termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks, it is necessary that the opinion of two doctors is necessary.
Furthermore, the doctors should be of the opinion that continuance of the pregnancy would be dangerous for the pregnant woman or if the child’s health is at substantial risk.
The Medical Board according to the Court is supposed to constitute a gynaecologist, a paediatrician, a radiologist or sonologist and other members as described by the rules of the State Government. The functions of each of these are described in detail in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy act.
CONFIDENTIALITY OF IDENTITY
As per the act, the details of the woman such as her name and other personal identifications shall not be revealed unless the person asking is in the position of authority to know the same as established by the law.
The penalty for any person who acts in contravention of the act shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend up to one year or with a fine or both.