NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court’s verdict on Monday allowing a woman from Mumbai to abort her 24-week pregnancy for abnormality of the fetus that could endanger her life has brought focus back on the proposed amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.
Experts have raised concerns that despite the health ministry approving changes to the law, women are made to approach the court and go through all the trauma because the amendments are yet to be passed by Parliament.
“The proposed changes to the Act will save such women from going to court and hence, a delay in abortion, mental trauma as well as huge expenses,” says Vinoj Manning, Executive Director, Ipas Development Foundation (IDF), an NGO that works on increasing women’s access to comprehensive abortion care in India.
One of the crucial amendments proposed to the law dating back to 1971 would allow abortion at any time during the pregnancy for “selective” fetal abnormality “incompatible” with life, which cannot be detected during the 20-week gestation period. Currently, the law allows medical abortion only till 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The amendments await Cabinet approval after which the bill will be tabled in Parliament.
The Supeme Court has allowed the Mumbai woman to abort the fetus on the ground that it did not develop a skull and could endanger her life.
“Once the amendments to the MTP Act come through, women would not be forced to move the highest court for permission for termination,” says Manning.
He adds, “The proposed amendments include strengthening access to safe abortion services by increasing the type of providers permitted to conduct an abortion after being appropriately trained, increase in the gestation limit to 24 weeks for vulnerable categories of women and of course no gestation limit to apply in case of diagnosis of severe fetal abnormalities.”