Women are worshipped as goddess in a country like India but at the same time we overlook their thousand problems, more often than not we turn a blind eye talk about their problems, which they are facing regularly and losing their lives because to our patriarchal society, who considers them inferior to them. Society does not want to help them but always seek to ignore them. Women face a lot of complications in pregnancy from just their tender age, when also they are termed as impure and constricted from performing many activities. Abortion comes with Pregnancy, if there are some issues, they have to cured rather than blamed. Abortion is basically termination of pregnancy by the removal of fetus or embryo from the women’s uterus.
Changes are necessary and thus provide a positive vision in our development. Likewise, there was a need in The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which has now bought The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which was a need of the hour. As in 2015, report by Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, it was noticed that 10-13% of maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortions[i]. It was predicted that approximately six to seven women died everyday because of perilous abortion.
Legality of abortion in India
After the MTP Act, 1971 and some sections of IPC, 1860, abortion became legal in some situations and circumstances. These acts gave rights to women of reproduction and also threw light on human rights by making abortion legal in India. Even in cases of rape, which destroys the future and leaves the victim pregnant, courts have made abortion legal for them also. There can be many reasons for abortion like health of the woman, unwanted pregnancy due to some dangerous incident, due to girl child, etc.
But there are only four reasons to legally terminate pregnancy and they are-
- if there is any risk to the life of mother or to her physical or mental health,
- if the fetus has several abnormalities,
- if pregnancy is a result of contraception,
- if pregnancy is a result of sexual assault or rape. And, at the same time it can be considered illegal also by two main reasons like- when a woman is with child, i.e., the situation when the gestation period has begun and secondly when a woman is quick with child. Miscarriage by women herself or by some other voluntary forces, is punishable under Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Before the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act, 1971
Prior to the M.T.P. Act, 1971, any abortion, which were performed other than of saving the life of women, was considered illegal. Abortion was judged with the view of Section 312 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, which talks about, “Causing miscarriage- Whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry, shall, if such miscarriage be caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years , or with fine, or with both, and , if the woman be quick with child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”[ii].
And Section 313 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, “Causing miscarriage without woman’s consent- Whoever commits the offence defined in the last preceding section without the consent of the woman, whether the woman is quick with child or not, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”[iii].
No focus was drawn on the issues of physical and mental health of the women and their right to freedom. No deliberation was placed on the grounds of physical deformity, or the mental retardation of the unborn child or that the pregnancy could be unwanted.
Need for amendment in Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
Firstly, this act had restricted the limit of twenty weeks for termination of pregnancy, where at several times, there is a need, where fetal abnormalities can only be treated in the later stages of gestation. Medical technology has reached at heights, with its new development in the field of medical sciences, where now it is possible to remove of fetus at a relatively advanced state of pregnancy, whereas, the time limit of twenty weeks provided by the act, just acts as a hindrance and necessitates an unwanted pregnancy onto the woman.
Secondly, in cases of rape and sexual assault, especially in minors, where they are unable to get proper abortion due to the restricted time limit as till the time the judgments are pronounced, the time limit for abortion is crossed and the victim is left with no option and has to give birth to a baby.
Thirdly, the MTP Act, 1971 was violative of women’s right to privacy, whose pregnancy is terminated.
Fourthly, Section 3(2) of the MTP Act, 1971, “mentions that there should be necessarily a registered medical practitioner, and where the time limit should not exceed twelve weeks and in latter case, which was mentioned that pregnancy can only be terminated if not less than two registered medical practitioner’s opinion at the time of termination of pregnancy, that the continuance of pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or there is a substantial risk that if the child is born, it should suffer from some physical or mental abnormalities leading to seriously handicapped body.” This is very challenging mainly in remote and rural areas, where it is difficult to find a second medical practitioner.
Ongoing highlights of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020-
- This bill corrected as far as possible for end of pregnancy from twenty to twenty-four weeks , with an assessment of an registered clinical expert yet just exceptional classes Of pregnancies, endorsed by the central government, might be done up to twenty-four weeks. [iv]
- The bill alters the arrangement by supplanting ‘married woman or her husband ‘with ‘woman or her partner’, where it was referenced that “if any pregnancy happens thus of disappointment of any gadget or strategy utilized by a wedded lady or her significant other to restrain the number of children, such an undesirable pregnancy may establish a grave physical issue to the psychological wellness of the pregnant lady.”[v]
- Changes in Constitution of Medical Board-This bill proclaims that “the upper limit of end of pregnancy won’t make a difference in situations where such end of pregnancy won’t make a difference in situations where such end is essential because of the determination of generous fetal variations from the norm.” “These anomalies will be analyzed by a Medical Board. Under the bill, each state is required to comprise a Medical Board. This medical Board will comprise of – a gynecologist, a pediatrician, a radiologist or sinologist, also, some other number of individuals, as might be informed by the state government. The central and State governments will inform the powers and function of these Medical boards.[vi]
- Protection of privacy of a woman “The Bill expresses that no registered clinical expert will be permitted to uncover the name and different specifics of a lady whose pregnancy has been ended, but to an individual approved by any law. Any individual who contradicts this arrangement will be culpable with imprisonment of as long as one year, or with a fine, or both.” [vii]
WHO on fetus removal-
“The world’s premier general health wellbeing organization has avowed the entrenched truth that entrance to safe fetus removal/ abortion is acceptable general wellbeing strategy that ensures the human privileges of the ladies living inside their fringes” [viii].
Status of Indian after this change
Association Cabinet Minister for Textiles and Women and Child Development Smriti Irani wrote in her blog that “Indian will presently remain among countries with an exceptionally dynamic law which permits lawful abortions on an expansive scope of therapeutic, humanitarian and social grounds. It is a achievement which will additionally empower woman, particularly the individuals who are defenseless and victims of rape[ix].
The recent alteration after a long hole in MTP Act, 1971 is a dynamic methodology towards enabling woman. It will likewise give ladies quality and nobility towards their reproductive rights, which are similarly significant for their physical and psychological wellness, and particularly a major foot forward towards their right to privacy, which was a chief matter of concern.
Fetus removal/ abortion has consistently been a piece of open discussion over the world. In the event that we talk about correspondence, at that point why we generally disregard, ladies regenerative rights, as woman’s is just the maker and her wellbeing ought to be our need. Fetus removal ought not be treated as a subject of disgrace in the public arena, yet as a requirement for some fundamental reasons. Everybody has the option to settle on choices for her own body.”I do not wish ladies to have control over men. But, over themselves”.
[ii]The Indian Penal Code, 1860.