The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 2021

The ability to control one’s reproductive life is a fundamental need and right for all women. The abortion issue rages on until this day. It is still considered taboo in India.

Reforming India’s abortion laws with women’s mental and physical health in mind is a big step toward reducing gender imbalance. To achieve this purpose, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was updated in 2021. While the Bill has been praised for removing some of the most prevalent barriers to abortion for women, it has also been criticized for not giving women complete control over their decisions. When regarded in a positive manner, however, this bill has benefited women in a number of ways.

In this paper, my primary focus would be on women’s reproductive rights under this act and how this act is successful in removing some of the most prevalent barriers to abortion for women but alongside I will analyse the loopholes in it as well. 

Introduction

Because India’s civilization is predominantly male-dominated, the bulk of the citizenry’s mentality is dominated by a desire for a male child. In most households, girls have been and continue to be considered as a burden, and in certain circumstances, they are slain in the womb before they are born.

Women who have already had abortions are obliged to have another kid, regardless of whether or not their health is in good shape. The question now is who made the decision that women should undergo abortions. Is it the woman, her family, or society that is to blame? Unfortunately, most of the time, it is not the women who make the decision. Although the child lives inside the mother’s body, she lacks reproductive liberty and thus has no control over the child’s future.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 [1]was enacted to prevent this from happening and to discourage people from utilizing unsafe and illegal abortion methods.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971.

This act covers a variety of topics related to abortion, including who can lawfully terminate a pregnancy, where they can do so, and how they can do so.

Under this act According to Section 3 of the MTP Act, [2]if the pregnancy lasts more than 12 weeks, it may be terminated on the advice of one “medical professional” if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the pregnant woman’s life or cause grave injury to her “physical or mental health,” or if there is a substantial risk that the child would be born with such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously harmed. If the pregnancy is between 12 and 20 weeks long, two certified medical practitioners’ opinions are required before the pregnancy can be terminated.

The Act makes it illegal to end a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. However, under this act, women’s rights were limited, and transsexual rights were not addressed, among other things. This act was amended in the year 2021.

The Supreme Court of India has established that reproductive freedom is personal liberty granted under Article 21 [3]of the Indian constitution in the case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.[4] As a result, it is necessary to alter this statute because it inhibits women’s freedom.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 2021 [5]intends to improve women’s access to safe and legal abortion services for medical, societal reasons.

The shortcoming of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971:

The Act needed to be updated because it failed to take into account recent advances in medical science. Abortions at advanced stages of pregnancy are now possible because of modern medical technologies. In some ways, the requirement that children seeking abortions obtain written agreement from their parents or guardians was retrograde. This requirement has been eliminated from the revised bill.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 2021.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act 2021, the time limit for legal abortions in India has been increased to 24 weeks, and the limit for abortions in the event of a significant foetal abnormality has been eliminated.

Two doctors’ opinions are required to terminate pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks. Special categories of women, such as rape/incest victims, differently-abled women, and children, are granted an extension of the gestation period up to 24 weeks.

Several new amendments have been made to help women gain more authority. They are as follows.

According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021[6], this act includes survivors of sexual assault, rape, or minors, as well as women whose marital status changes during a continuing pregnancy.

According to the statute, “no information about a woman, her name, or facts of a pregnancy that has been terminated shall be divulged” unless to a person authorized by law. Abortions after 24 weeks will be decided on by a state-level Medical Board if there are significant foetal problems.

The following definitions are added to the 1971 Act by the Amendment Act: “Medical Board” refers to the Medical Board established under section 3’s sub-section (2C); [7]“termination of pregnancy” refers to a process to end a pregnancy using surgical and medical methods. No medical professional should expose the identity or other personal information of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated under this Act to anybody other than a person permitted by law at the time “Section 5A of the amendment Act states this. 

Benefits of This Act.

After the twentieth week of pregnancy, many foetal abnormalities are discovered. Such situations would be addressed by the new provisions. The new law would make it possible for rape victims and disabled women to safely and legally end undesired pregnancies.

The act also applies to unmarried women, repealing a discriminatory provision in the 1971 Act that prohibited unmarried women from seeking an abortion due to contraceptive failure.

Unmarried women will have reproductive rights if they are legally able to end an unplanned pregnancy with a measure that protects their identity.

The Act is a positive step forward because it addresses some of India’s worries about abortion and de-emphasizes marriage as a prerequisite for sexual engagement and pregnancy. Similarly, it takes into consideration the aspect of privacy of a woman. Without a doubt, this act has many positive aspects, but we must not overlook the flaws that it contains.

Shortcomings of this act.

In the following years, the execution of this Act may prove to be a struggle. The formation of Medical Boards has been left to the discretion of state governments, with no clear plan of action in place. Adding another obstacle to accessing abortion services will merely prolong the process of terminating such pregnancies.

There are various concerns about this act. They are as follows: in various sections of the country, particularly in rural areas, there is a serious lack of specialists such as gynaecologists, paediatricians, and radiologists. This could pose a significant problem for women in these communities, compounding the mental misery of an undesired pregnancy.

Another point of contention is the Act’s 18-year-old age restriction.

India has the highest proportion of women aged 20-24 who had given birth before the age of 18. The Act fails to recognize and address teenagers’ abortion needs.

Conclusion.

The MTP (Amendment) Act of 2021 [8]is undeniably ambitious in its goal of simplifying abortion regulations in the case of unwanted pregnancies.

For medical and societal grounds, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 2021 aims to improve women’s provision of safe abortion services. The Act is a positive step forward because it tackles some of the issues surrounding pregnancy termination in India while also empowering women. However, we still have a long way to go.


[1] The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

[2] S.3, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

[3] Article 21, The Constitution of India, 1949.

[4] K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (AIR 2017 SC 4161).

[5] The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021.

[6] The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

[7] S. 3 (2c), The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021.

[8] The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021


Author: Tanvi Mehta


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