New rules for allowing abortion till 24 weeks

Government has incorporated new rules under the “Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, which was passed in March 2021.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021

  • Under the new rules, the gestational limit for termination of pregnancy has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for exceptional categories of women in India.
  • Women for whom the limit has been increased comprise of minors; survivors of sexual assault, rape or incest; those having physical disabilities and those whose marital status changes during pregnancy that is in case of widowhood or divorce.
  • It also includes cases of foetal malformation where there is risk of physical or mental abnormalities, mentally ill women and women in disasters or emergency situations, declared by the government.

Background

In past, opinion of one doctor was required to carry abortion of up to twelve weeks of conception. Opinion of two doctors was required for doing the abortion between twelve and twenty weeks.

State-level medical board

  • Under the new rules, state-level medical boards will be set up that will decide if a pregnancy can be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of foetal malformation.
  • Boards will examine the woman & her reports and then either accept or reject the proposal for medical termination of pregnancy. This process will be completed within three days of receiving the request.
  • Board will also ensure that the abortion procedure is carried with all precaution along with counselling, when advised by them. The procedure will be done within five days of receiving the request for it.

Should the rules be for all women?

Experts are of the view that, considering the advancements in scientific and medical technology, extended 24 week of gestation period should be open for all women and not just specific categories of women. They also note that, creation of state medical boards might create impediments for women’s access to abortion services.

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