Issues around MTP Act

Recently the Supreme Court turned down the request of a 27 week pregnant lady, of her pregnancy with Down Syndrome Foetus. Should the women be given choice or the court is right in providing judgments sticking to the Constitution? What are the Government’s actions on the pregnancies and abortions of the women population? This article tries to write down crisp notes on recent laws and measures taken up by the Indian Government.

What is MTP act, 1971? Why there is a need to amend this law?

The MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) act allows abortion in the following instances

  • If the pregnancy has happened due to alleged causes like rape or anguish
  • If the pregnancy has happened due to failure of the method used by a married couple for limiting the number of children
  • For the girls who are 18 years and below the termination would be allowed only after a legal statement from the parent or guardian.
  • In cases where the mother’s life in grave danger or would make her a lunatic due to psychological disorders.
  • In cases, where when the child born would suffer from physical and mental abnormalities that would lead to serious handicapped situations.

The last amendment of the Abortion law was made in 2014. Back then, the development in medical field as very poor as compared to the current technology. Recently, an unprecedented pre mature baby was delivered at a height of 35, 000 feet in Jet airways with no casualties. Though the flight did not have high profile medical equipments, the First aid kit was more than sufficient.  Now a days, the advances in medical field is so huge that the precautions of basic needs are far enough to save the life in the “Golden hour” (Golden hour is the first hour after a traumatic injury).  Bottom line, the laws must be amended according the prevailing medical advancements.

Around 5% of the children are born with incurable heart diseases whose life ends in 30 years. Also, another heart problem called the hypo plastic left ventricle, that needs a few surgeries is done only in very few hospitals and is quite expensive. If not for the cost, the mental pressure is very high in such cases. All this can be detected only when the fetus grows to 26 or 27 weeks. We note here that the current laws don’t allow taking away the life of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a danger to the mother’s life. Thus, there is a demand that the permitted period of termination be increased. These demands are as follows:

  • MEDICAL REASONS – The additional six weeks would give doctors to confirm the foetal abnormality and for the parents to accept the reality.
  • EMOTIONAL REASONS – The mother should be mentally stabilised in some cases before the process. This requires time of a month or so.
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL RESONS – Having a baby that is to die in 30 years of life is a night mare. Rather it is acceptable for the parents to take its life in the womb before getting a 30 year attachment.
Similar cases that happened in the History of Courts of India
  • 2008 – Bombay high Court – Denied permission to a woman who was 26 week pregnant. The issue with the foetus was that he had been diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease.
  • 2015 – Punjab and Haryana Courts denied permission to a 13 year old rape victim to terminate her 25 week old foetus.
How challenging it is for the Government to change the existing rules?

It is a cake walk for the Government to change the rules. Previously before the MTP act 1971, termination of pregnancy was pertained to imprisonment unless it was carried to save the women’s life. The life of the foetus and other psychological factors were not considered. But as the medical advances grew, the law was amended in 1971. Similarly, with more advances, the no of weeks for the termination of pregnancy was increased to 20 weeks from 12 weeks.

What are the current recommended amendments made by the Ministry of health and Family Welfare for the betterment of the Mother and the Foetus?

Two notable recommendations of the ministry are as follows. Firstly, increasing the time period of abortion to support the medical practitioners to correctly guide the parents to make firm decisions. Secondly, allowing terminations of pregnancy by single woman, who is sexually active and where the pregnancy was unprecedented and stipulated due to contraceptive failure.