Expressing concern over rising number of abortion-related deaths in the country, a parliamentary committee on women's healthcare policies has recommended amendment in Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to help remove the weak spots in existing norms.
It also took note of the fact that women in India are compelled to seek legal recourse, the processes of which is very slow, to terminate the pregnancy, if the pregnancy goes beyond two weeks.
The committee on empowerment of women that worked on Women's Healthcare policy options recommended that the government amends Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 to raise the permissible period of abortions to 24 weeks, the permissible limit for abortion currently is 20 weeks.
The bill is already pending amendment and is at the final stage. In its recommendations, the committee added that this bar should not be applied to unborn babies having serious abnormalities.
"It also found that the judicial process is so slow that the victim's pregnancy more often than not crosses the legal limit and she is unable to get the abortion done, thus pushing her further to the shoddy and shabby and shabby dealings of quacks in both rural and urban areas," read the committee report.
The Committee has also desired the family planning programme to spread awareness about the legal validity of the process, campaign extensively about safe abortion services available in government facilities and come down hard on illegal abortion clinics mushrooming in every nook and corner of the society.
Abortion laws in India came under question after the Supreme Court in February last year refused to allow a woman to abort her 26-week-old fetus that would be born with Down syndrome, a congenital disorder that postpones the onset of developmental and intellectual features. Admitting that the child may suffer from physical and mental abnormalities, the bench said that their hands are tied by the law.
In May 2017, the apex court denied a plea to abort another 26-week-old fetus, made by a 35-year-old HIV-positive woman who had been sexually assaulted. The court cited a report prepared by a doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Under the current MTP Act, abortion is a qualified right but it cannot be performed solely based on a woman's request. It can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner before 12 weeks of pregnancy. In case the woman had been pregnant for more than 12 weeks, but for less than 20 weeks, the opinions of two medical practitioners are required.