In the words of Tagore in Chitra, he described the role of a woman in these words-
“I am no goddess to be worshipped, not yet the object of common pity to be brushed aside like a moth with indifference. If you desire to keep me by your side in the path of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the great duties of your life than you will knew my true self.”
Abortion is a process by which pregnancy comes to an end of a woman. It is advisable and preferable to carry such process during the first trimester of pregnancy in order to make it more safe and effective. This is mainly done to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the future or complete an early miscarriage or even to prevent the risk of life threatening. This is a paramount decision in the life of a woman involving emotional and psychological setbacks. Depending on person to person such a process depicts different side effects, possible risks, complications, etc.
Abortion was enacted as a law by the Parliament as Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Since then it has been legalised but there have been very few instances since then that abortion is performed in accordance with the law. According to a report by WHO, it was reported that out of 5.3 million estimated abortions in India in 1989, 4.7 million were unsafe. It is a harsh fact to believe that many abortions are carried by people who are not even doctors with proper degree and knowledge. Such an incident is mainly witnessed by the people living in rural areas who are not much aware about the legality.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2020 was proposed in the Parliament after consultation with different departments and on receiving legit reports. There is a dire need to give safe access to abortion services to the women keeping in view the flourishing medical technology. Hence, the objective of this article is to give an overview of this amendment.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DEVELOPMENT
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was presented in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare on 2 March 2020. This bill was passed on 17 March 2020 through a vote by the lower house of the Parliament. The Union Cabinet had already approved this bill under the chairmanship of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The main reason behind proposing such a bill was to seek termination of pregnancy in cases involving victims of incest, rape survivors, minor girls, differently-abled girls, pregnancy having foetal abnormalities, etc. In addition to this, there was increase in the upper limit of legal abortions from 20 weeks to 24 weeks in case of special categories of women.
This amendment is significantly important to broaden the access of women to a safer and legitimate form of abortion services in order to fulfil such needs on societal and humanitarian grounds. There have been numerous changes in the parent act of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 in which the services and quality of abortion has not been compromised.
Moreover, the bill has also ensured the safety and health of women concerned. The gestation limit increment has ensured dignity; confidentiality and justice for those women who wish to carry the process of abortion or terminate their pregnancy.
FEATURES OF THE AMENDMENT ACT, 2020
The Bill while amending the parent act has provided for termination of pregnancies by registered and recognised medical practitioners. The definition of termination of pregnancy has been amended meaning thereby a procedure undertaken to terminate pregnancy by using medical or surgical methods.
Termination of pregnancy for reasons that continuation of such pregnancy may endanger the life of the mother or cause grave injury to her health; or there arises a substantial risk that the child born would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities, if born, was earlier between 12 to 20 weeks with the opinion of two medical practitioners required. But now the amendment states that abortion within 20 weeks shall require opinion of only one medical practitioner, whereas approval of two medical practitioners will be required if abortion will take place between 20 to 24 weeks.
However, termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks will only be applicable to special categories of women and notification of norms for medical practitioner whose opinion is required may be prescribed by the central government.
With the legalisation of live-in relationships in India, the provision highlighting that if any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any method or device used by the ‘married woman or her husband’ in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy constituting grave injury to the mental health of the women, have now been replaced with the words ‘woman or her partner’.
Every State government is now to constitute a Medical Board for termination of pregnancies arising out of substantial foetal abnormalities. This Board shall consist of a gynaecologist, a paediatrician, a radiologist or sonologist, and any such staff necessary. The determination of the powers and functions of these medical boards are to be made by the central government.
The most crucial amendment is that there will be complete protection of the privacy of a woman. Unless authorised by law, no registered medical practitioner is allowed to reveal the name and particulars of the aborted woman. Such contravention will eventually lead to imprisonment up to one year with fine.
Giving birth to a new born child is a blessing as well as a responsibility which is bestowed upon females. There have been instances where this has been much discussed as to why only the females have to bear such pain and effort. This is evident from the fact that how beautifully God created mankind. But sometimes this bridges to act as a peril to the health of the woman.
The need for legalising abortion in India should not only by necessary but also mandatory in order to prevent the false cases being handled by fraudulent doctors. In order to prevent unsafe practice of abortion there has to be a law that regulates it. The simple and the most convenient way to prevent unwanted pregnancy for any woman will be to have protected sexual intercourse. A man cannot force a female to have unprotected sex in a society where women are being empowered so much and given protection in each and every walk of their lives. The gradual increase in the number of abortions will show a paradigm shift if these are protected by certain laws which are beneficial not only for the health of the women but also for the society at large. Population control is indeed a very serious issue that has been emerging in the present times keeping in view the economy as a whole. That is why birth control measures are being given indispensable importance.
In the light of this article, it is therefore concluded that legalisation of abortion in India was a necessary initiative that has to be followed for not only protecting the lives of the women but also to keep the population growth in control. However, with the advancements in law and technology, this process has been simplified up to a larger extent.
Author: Shubhi Dhiman,
School of Law, UPES Dehradun