The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 on 25th March sustained Presidential assent, commencing into law key changes in India’s abortion law which allows abortions by unmarried women for the failure of contraceptive and abortions beyond the earlier fertilization limit of 20 weeks.
Prior to changes, it is relevant to get that abortions in India are permissible only in the following conditions:
(i) either the carrying on of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the pregnant woman’s life or cause her grave injury to her physically or mentally.
(ii) the embryo, if born, would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormality.
Legislative presumptions are in place to enlarge the scope of when “grave injury” is caused, mentally or physically, to the pregnant woman. Prior position of the law was this.
Gestational period ( length of the pregnancy) within which abortion can be legally accomplish:
1. Pregnancies upto 20 weeks can be terminated with the suggestion from one of the registered medical practitioner, that there is a risk to the woman or the embryo.
2. Between 20-24 weeks of pregnancies can also be terminated on the suggestion of two registered medical practitioner that there is a risk to the woman or priory pregnancies beyond 20 weeks couldn’t be ended under the Act, leaving women with such pregnancies to reach courts with writ petitions if they needed to abort.
3. These defined limits would not apply where the termination of pregnancy is obligatory after a Medical Board recognized any substantial foetal abnormalities.
Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, states that pregnancy might be terminated by registered medical practitioners which has been amended to include that pregnancy due to failure of contraceptive may affect the mother’s mental and imprisonment which may be extendable to one year or fine or both.
Unmarried Women comes under abortion law:
Under the prior law, contraceptive failure in the case of a married woman and her husband was viewed as ensuing in grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman, thus allowed abortions in such a case for married women. The amendment, however, has launched a change on this front.
An explanation to the amended Section 3 confers that any failure of contraceptives used by a woman and her partner, ensuing “anguish caused by such pregnancy” may be assumed to shape” sepulcher injury caused to the mental health of the pregnant woman.” Therefore, an unmarried woman can also now terminate pregnancies within the gestational limits under the Act.
Maintenance of Confidentiality:
Section 5 was also added as the MTP Act in the engrossment of protection of privacy of women whose pregnancies are terminated. The newly added Section 5A conifers,
(1) Registered Medical Practitioner are not allowed to disclose the name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated under this Act
(2) Whoever violates the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with imprisonment which may exceed to 1 year, or with fine, or with both.