While answering a question on the steps taken by the Government to review and strengthen the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2014, Union Health Minister, JP Nadda, in the Lok Sabha, on Monday, said that MTP is in the process of finalisation.
The minister, in the reply, said, “Following the inter-ministerial consultations, the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was placed in public domain for comments. Taking into account both public opinion and the recommendations from the deliberations, the proposed MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2018, has been drafted, and is under the consultative process for finalisation.”
The current Act does not allow abortions above the gestational age of 20 weeks. However, legal experts argued that medical science and technology have made the 20-week ceiling redundant. The experts have also said that conclusive determination of foetal abnormality is possible in most cases after the 20th week of gestational age.
The proposed amendments to the MTP Act, 1971, focuses on improving the scope of legal access to treat advanced pregnancies of minor rape victims and those of women with foetal abnormalities.
Explaining the steps taken by Government, regarding the Supreme Court’s directives, to set up State medical boards to expedite action in abortion cases, he said, “As per the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s directions, the State/ UT Governments were asked to constitute a Permanent Medical Boards for the immediate examination of the cases referred by District Courts, High Courts and Supreme Court for abortion beyond 20 weeks, so that they can take an immediate action in those cases. Till date, seventeen states/UTs have informed to have constituted the permanent Medical Board and others are in the process of constituting the Medical boards.”
“The bill being in the process of finalisation is encouraging. It could have been done much earlier. Currently, people have to go to court if they want to terminate the pregnancy. The pain of going to court can be avoided if the bill is amended. In cases of serious foetal abnormality, or in case of rape victims, the bill is of vital importance,” said, Dr Nikhil Datar, a senior gynecologist from Mumbai.
Dr Meenakshi Deshpande, another senior gynaecologist from Mumbai, said, “Unsafe abortions are still prevalent. They can be reduced if the act is amended. It will also allow women, especially, rape victims, to take an independent decision on termination of pregnancy.”