The central government has notified new rules allowing abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy in the case of rape survivors and women with physical disabilities, among others.
The new rules come under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 | Representative (Getty Images)
As per the government’s new rules, the gestational limit for termination of a pregnancy in India has been increased from 20 to 24 weeks for some categories of women
Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the women for whom the limit has been increased include survivors of sexual assault, rape or incest, minors, those whose marital status changes during pregnancy (widowhood and divorce) and those with physical disabilities.
The new rules also include mentally ill women, cases of foetal malformation in which there is a substantial risk of physical or mental abnormalities and women in disasters or emergency situations as declared by the government.
These new rules fall under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, which was passed by Parliament in March this year.
STATE-LEVEL MEDICAL BOARDS
Earlier, an abortion required the opinion of one doctor if carried out within twelve weeks of conception and two doctors if done between twelve and twenty weeks.
As per the new rules, state-level medical boards will be set up to decided if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of foetal malformation where there is a substantial risk of incompatibility with life, physical or mental abnormalities or handicaps.
The medical boards are to examine the woman and her reports and then either accept or reject the proposal for medical termination of pregnancy within three days of receiving the request.
The boards also have to ensure that the abortion procedure, when advised by them, is carried out with all precautions along with counselling. The procedure has to be done with five days of the board receiving the request for the same.
SHOULD BE FOR ALL WOMEN: EXPERTS
Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of the Population Foundation of India, was quoted in a PTI report as saying, “We welcome the new rules. However, given the advancements in scientific and medical technology the world has witnessed over the years, the extended 24 week gestation period should be for all women and not just ‘special categories of women.”
She added, “The creation of state medical boards could potentially create impediments for women’s access to abortion services as many women discover they are pregnant at a later stage.”
Dr Jaideep Malhotra, founder of Rainbow IVF and former president of Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, said it is a “much-awaited, sensitive and forward-looking amendment” for both the beneficiaries and gynaecologists.
Dr Loveleena Nadir, a senior gynecologist, was quoted by PTI as saying that the new rules are a leap ahead for women’s reproductive choices.
“I hope that this is a first step towards making safe abortion accessible to all women and not just restricted to women in special categories. This would empower women and make India a liberal woman supporting country,” she said.