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Cabinet approves raising of upper limit for permitting abortions to 24 weeks for certain cases
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved extending the upper limit for permitting abortions from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks for "special categories of women" which would include rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled and minors, an official statement said.
The Cabinet gave its nod to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and it would be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament beginning January 31.
While addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said the upper limit for permitting abortions has been extended from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks.
He also said that this will ensure safe termination of pregnancies and also give women reproductive rights over their bodies.
The extension will help victims of rape, girls with disabilities as well as minors, who may not realise they are pregnant until later, he said.
An official statement later said one of the salient features of the proposed amendments is "enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include 'vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc".
If the pregnancy has to be terminated in 20 weeks, the opinion of one doctor is required. But beyond that, opinion of two doctors would be needed and one of them has to be a government physician, Javadekar said.
Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy is terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law which is in force, the statement said.
"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.
"This will reduce maternal mortality," he added.
The statement said the "upper gestation limit" for medical termination of pregnancy will not apply in cases of "substantial foetal abnormalities" diagnosed by the Medical Board.
The composition, functions and other details of Medical Board will be prescribed subsequently in rules to be framed under the Act.
The amendments are aimed at expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds, the statement said.
"It is a step towards safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted by this. Recently several petitions were received by the courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
"The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy," it said.