Abortion time limit increased to 24 weeks by Union Cabinet
After the Cabinet meeting, Union minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters the upper limit was increased to ensure safe termination of pregnancies, and also give women reproductive rights over their bodies.Updated: Jan 30, 2020, 02:27 IST
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved increasing the legal deadline for conducting a medical abortion from the current 20 to 24 weeks for “special categories of women”, including “vulnerable women” such as differently abled, minors, rape survivors, and victims of incest.
The Cabinet gave its nod to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to change the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and is set to introduce it in the Budget session of Parliament beginning on January 31. The amendment also proposes that the requirement for the opinion of one doctor for termination of pregnancy should be enough up to 20 weeks of gestation, and two doctors for termination between 20 and 24 weeks of gestation.
After the Cabinet meeting, Union minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters the upper limit was increased to ensure safe termination of pregnancies, and also give women reproductive rights over their bodies. The extension will help victims of rape, women with disabilities and minors, who may not realise they are pregnant until later, he said.
The new amendments specify that the name and other details of a woman who underwent an abortion shall not be revealed except to a person authorised by any law that is in force. “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. This is important because in first 5 months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn’t realise and has to go to court. This was discussed with various stakeholders,” Javadekar said.
Currently, cases in which the pregnancy is beyond 20 week go to court and are decided on case-by-case basis. In 2017, the top court allowed a 13-year-old girl in Mumbai abortion at 32 weeks. The exceptions will continue to happen even after the amendment, but the limit of 24 will mean that fewer cases go to court.
Experts in the field had always been in favour of increasing the age limit for conducting medical termination of pregnancy. “It will help save many precious lives. It is a much required change in the law,” said a senior gynaecologist at New Delhi’s All India Institute for Medical Sciences. “The scans to detect congenital abnormality are done usually between 18 and 20 weeks that gives us very little time to plan the abortion. Sometimes women come to us late and even if 20 weeks are over by a day, we can’t legally terminate a pregnancy,” Dr Anuradha Kapur, director- institute of obstetrics and gynaecology, Max Super Specialty Hospital, said.