REPORT ON MTP ACT, 1971
Author: Kavya Goyal, Prestige Institute Of Management
Abortion remained the most controversial ethical issues because it is a matter of taking a human life. That is why it has the intervention of law so much. Abortion always has two sides of arguments, one says it represents woman’s “right to choose” whether to continue the pregnancy or to terminate it. The other side argues that it is taking of a human’s life so it can’t vest on one hand. The article firstly gives a brief introduction of MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY ACT, 1971 and after its evolution. This Act has many lacking points which should be there in the present situation, that’s why a Bill; MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has passed by Lok Sabha, the article mentions the highlights of the Bill.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 is the Act which has legalised abortion in Indian up to 20 weeks of pregnancy only by the Registered Medical Practitioner on the certain and specified conditions. Section 3 of the Act specifics the conditions under which termination can be done legally some of them are when the duration of pregnancy has been reached up to 20 weeks, the pregnancy can be terminated with the consultation of two medical practitioners and if it has reached 12 weeks, it can be terminated. The termination can be approved when it will be a danger for a woman’s health, or if the child would suffer from any serious abnormalities if it will be born, these are specified conditions under which the termination can be done.Before 1971 there was no provision related to legalized abortion. Even today there are many strict laws for abortion in many of the countries including India that’s why many of the abortions happen illegally in India.
Before 1971 abortion was not legalized in India. Under section 312 of Indian Penal Code,1860, termination of Pregnancy was criminalized. Anyone who gets abortion was punished by 7 years of imprisonment along with fine. Because of this a lot of women get an illegal and unsafe abortion.In the year 1964, Shantilal Shah Committee has recommended to liberalized the abortion law of India to reduce the unsafe and illegal abortions. The Committee carried out the reviews of the medical, legal and socio-cultural aspects of abortion. After that Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971was passed based on the recommendation of the Committee.Although the MTP Act came into existence abortion remained as a criminalized offence under IPC, the section was not nullified. Moreover, the punishment for the act also remains same i.e. imprisonment or/and fine.
WHY IT IS NECESSARY TO AMEND THE MTP ACT, 1971?
There are some provisions which are required to amend according to the changing scenario, these are as follows:
- The decision to have or not to have a child should best on the hands of the women only. Unwanted pregnancy leads women to unsafe abortion which puts their life in danger.
- The time of termination of pregnancy should increase from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. Currently, it requires many legal complications for women who want to terminate their pregnancy after 20 weeks.
- The existing MTP Act requires to adopt new technologies, as the Act was commenced in the year 1971, it lacks the new technologies and advancements.
- It should include some provisions related to providing more safety and protection to the women, as the women opt unsafe abortion, it puts the lives of women in danger.
- The Act should reduce the legal formalities as the termination is related to health issues rather than legal issues.
These were some of the changes which were required to amend.
THE MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020
The Bill was introduced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha on March 02, 2020, and passed on March 17, 2020. The Bill has increased the period of abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. Before this, the opinion of one doctor was required in the case of abortion within 12 weeks and two doctors in the case of 12-20 weeks. Now the Bill has amended it; abortion can be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks and between 20 to 24 weeks, of two doctors, are required. A pregnancy terminated up to 20 weeks by a married woman in the case of failure of the contraceptive method or device under the Act. Now the bill allows unmarried women also to terminate the pregnancy on the failure of the contraceptive method or device.
All state and union territory governments will constitute a Medical Board. The Board will decide if pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks due to substantial foetal abnormalities. Each Board will have a gynaecologist, paediatrician, radiologist/sonologist, and other members notified by the state government. A registered medical practitioner may only reveal the details of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated to a person authorised by law. Violation is punishable with imprisonment up to a year, a fine, or both.
The main objective of the Act is to provide all women with quality abortion care. And one of the main objectives of the Amendment Bill is to reduce the unsafe and illegal abortion within the territory of India. The Act must also look and provide the mother’s right to have a termination of pregnancy as it is their human right. Currently, it is on the shoulder of law to take care of the mother as well as an unborn child.