Four months ago, the Central Government told the Supreme Court of India that the right of reproductive autonomy does not dwarf the State’s interest in protecting the life of a fetus and the limit of medical abortion cannot be extended over 20 weeks in a blanket manner. However, the government has now extended the permissible upper limit of medical abortions to 24 weeks.
Today, Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister, said that this increase is a “progressive reform (which) gives women reproductive rights over their bodies” while addressing the reporters.
He 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 will not only help in safe terminations of the fetus but also give women the reproductive rights over their bodies.
This has been a demand for not only women but also some sections of doctors. Javadekar added, “This is important because in the first five months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn’t realise and has to go to court”.
Back in September, the Centre said that the State was morally and compulsion bound as the guardian of the citizens, to protect the life of a fetus which has attained the stage of viability in the womb. This came as the response to a plea that was filed to challenge the constitutional validity of the Law which has fixed the ceiling of 20 weeks on abortion.
The government, then, claimed that there have been studies that showed that in many cases abortions after the 20th week can cause abnormalities. Additionally, a pregnant woman who has chosen to carry her pregnancy to term were better able to cope with the loss, trauma, and mental anguish when compared to the women who chose to terminate the pregnancy altogether.
The petitioners wanted the upper limit of the abortions should be extended to 26 weeks.
This Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will be introduced in the next session of the parliament and proposes changes to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.