Why is it in the news?
- Recently, a Division Bench of two women judges in the Supreme Court was divided on a married woman’s right to abort her 26-week pregnancy and referred it to the Chief Justice of India to form a three-judge Bench.
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act of 2021 allows abortion up to 24 weeks in “exceptional circumstances” related to the life of the mother or a fatal deformity in the foetus.
More about the news
- The woman, a mother of two with a one-year-old child, expressed her desire to medically terminate the pregnancy due to her mental condition and inability to care for a third child.
- The court initially allowed the abortion based on a report from an AIIMS medical board but later received an application from the Union government opposing it.
- The Union government argued that the woman does not have an “absolute right of autonomy” to exercise her reproductive rights if it impacts the rights of the unborn child.
- The government claimed that a medical expert on the board had suggested giving the child a chance to survive.
- However, the woman’s lawyer argued for the paramount consideration of the mother’s interests, emphasizing her privacy and dignity.
Key Provisions of the MTP Amendment Act, 2021
Termination due to Contraceptive Method or Device Failure
- Married women can terminate a pregnancy up to 20 weeks if a contraceptive method or device fails.
- Unmarried women are also allowed to terminate a pregnancy for this reason.
Opinion Requirement for Termination
- One Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) can provide an opinion for termination up to 20 weeks of gestation.
- Two RMPs’ opinions are required for termination between 20-24 weeks of gestation.
- A State-level medical board’s opinion is necessary for termination after 24 weeks in cases of substantial fetal abnormalities.
Upper Gestation Limit for Special Categories
- The upper gestation limit is extended from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women, including survivors of rape, victims of incest, and other vulnerable women (such as differently-abled women and minors).
- The Act ensures confidentiality by not revealing the name and other details of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated, except to individuals authorized by existing laws.