Centre tweaks law to allow abortions at 24 weeks

Centre tweaks law to allow abortions at 24 weeks

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the five-decade-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act that allowed abortions till 20 weeks

Indian women may soon be able to legally opt for abortion until the sixth month or 24 weeks of pregnancy, but after seeking permission from two doctors.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the five-decade-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act that allowed abortions till 20 weeks, forcing women to seek illegal means to end unwanted pregnancies, a move that put their lives at risk.

“The law, which was necessary for women’s reproductive rights, will now allow them to abort any time during pregnancy till the 24-week gestation period. Currently, the law allows medical abortion only till 20 weeks of pregnancy,” I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters here.

The minister said earlier mortality of pregnant women was higher due to unsafe abortion at around 8%.

“The law will help rape victims, ill and under-age women to terminate unwanted pregnancies lawfully. Also, in case of deformity of the foetus, a medical board will provide a safe pathway for abortion,” Javadekar said.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill is expected to be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament beginning Friday.

There had been cases where women had to seek permission for abortions at a gestational period beyond 20 weeks on grounds of foetal deformities detected at a later stage or pregnancies due to sexual violence.

According to the amendments, a woman can go in for abortion up to the 20th week of pregnancy on the recommendation of a single doctor.

However, for abortion of pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks, permission would be required from two doctors, one of whom would be a government doctor.

The amendment also states that the “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed, except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force”.

Javadekar said the amendments were aimed at expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds.