The government has notified new rules under which the gestation termination of a pregnancy in india has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women.

According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, these categories include survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest, minors and women whose marital status changes during an ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce) and women with physical disabilities.

The new rules also cover mentally ill women, cases of foetal malformation that has a substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped and women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations as may be declared by the government.

The new rules are under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 passed by the Parliament in March.

The Rajya Sabha has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 on 16th March 2021. The Bill was approved in Lok Sabha on 17th March 2020.

Salient features of amendments:

  • Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc.
  • Opinion of only one provider will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and of two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  • Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
  • 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.
  • The ground of failure of contraceptive has been extended to women and her partner.

Earlier, abortion required the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.

According to the new rules, a state-level medical board will be set up to decide if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of foetal malformation and if the foetal malformation has a substantial risk of it being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped.

The function of the Medical Board shall be to examine the woman and her reports if she approaches for medical termination of pregnancy and provide the opinion with regard to the termination of pregnancy or rejection of a request for termination within three days of receiving the request.

The Board has also been tasked to ensure that the termination procedure, when advised by it, is carried out with all safety precautions along with appropriate counselling within five days of the receipt of the request for medical termination of pregnancy.

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