In a significant decision, the Union Cabinet has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which proposes an extension of the upper limit for abortions to 24 weeks from 20 weeks.
Reportedly, the extension to 24 weeks will help survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women like differently-abled women, minors etc, the Union Cabinet said in a statement. The Bill will be introduced in the ensuing budget session of the Parliament.
Furthermore, the extension of the upper limit for abortions will not apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the medical board. The composition, functions and other details of the medical board will be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
The names 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. Speaking to the media, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the increase in extension was a “progressive reform that gives women reproductive rights over their bodies”.
“In a progressive reform and giving reproductive rights to women, the limit of 20 weeks of medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to 24 weeks,” said Javadekar adding this would ensure safe termination and give women reproductive rights over their bodies.
Stating that this was a demand from a section of women and doctors, the minister added, “This is important because in first five months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn’t realise and has to go to court”.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is for expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds. It is a step towards the safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted by this.
The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate the pregnancy, stated the Union Cabinet in its statement.
The decision comes four months after the centre had told the Supreme Court that right to reproductive autonomy did not outweigh the interest of the state in protecting a foetus’ life and the 20-week limit could not be extended in a blanket manner.