New Delhi: The amendments to the 46-year-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act — which were seen as pathbreaking, have been given a quiet burial. The Prime Minister Office (PMO) has sent back the draft to the Union health ministry that proposed right to safe and legal abortion to all women, irrespective of their marital status. The PMO has instead asked the ministry to strengthen the existing MTP and Pre Conception-Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act.
“The PMO has not specified any particular reason for its decision and just asked us to strengthen the existing two Acts. The irony is that the proposed amendments to the MTP Act that have been felt long over due were not even discussed in the PMO,” sources disclosed. The PC-PNDT Act that has been asked to be empowered too intends to prohibit prenatal diagnostic techniques for determination of the sex of the fetus leading to female foeticide. While the draft MTP Act underwent enough consultations with various stakeholders and then sent to the PMO before it could be forwarded to the Union Cabinet for approval, the decision by the top government office has come as a shocker for the health ministry and is considered to be a setback to women empowerment, say women activists. The revision of the legal limit for abortion was felt long over due because of technology breaking new grounds and an urgent need to empower women making it imperative that the law be changed, the health ministry will now have to justify the amendments that it had recommended once again before the PMO. “The discussions are on and we will once again take it before them,” added sources. In a set of proposed amendments to the MTP Bill, the health ministry had suggested increasing the limit of abortion from 20 to 24 weeks in cases of vulnerable women, including rape survivors and disabled women, and recommended that abortion beyond the stipulated time be allowed in cases were the foetus suffers from substantial abnormalities.
Importantly, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government had also recommended right to safe and legal abortion to all women in India, irrespective of their marital status. The existing MTP Act recognises and caters only to sexually-active “married” women.
Notably, the health ministry had proposed that homeopaths, midwives be allowed to carry out “non invasive” abortion procedures. “As per the proposal, except unani doctors, all ANMs, nurses, midwives working in the system should be allowed to carry out non invasive-abortions,” sources further added.