New rules allow abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy for special cases

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the gestational period has been increased for women in special categories from 20 to 24 weeks. The state-level medical board will advise on termination of pregnancy

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The gestational period for termination of pregnancy in India has been raised from 20 to 24 weeks for women in special categories under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021 (passed by the parliament in March this year).

The applicability of this provision to women include survivors of sexual assault, minors, rape survivors, minors with change in marital status during pregnancy and physically disabled and mentally ill people. It also includes cases with foetal malformation as it might result in physical or mental abnormalities in the child.

Previously, it required a doctor’s opinion to abort a foetus within 12 weeks of conception and the opinion of two of them if the foetus was between 12 and 20 weeks.

Read more: How the new abortion law fails to give women the absolute right over their bodies

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According to the new rules, state-level medical boards will be established to advise on terminating a pregnancy after 24 weeks in case of foetal malformation causing a substantial risk. The board would accept or reject the proposal for medical termination of pregnancy within three days of the request after examining their medical records.

The board has to ensure if the abortion procedure is followed after receiving counselling. The procedures should be completed within five days of the board receiving the request.

Executive director of the Population Foundation on India, Poonam Muttreja said that given the advancements in scientific and medical technology, the gestation period should be extended to all women. “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,” she added.

Senior gynaecologist, Dr Loveleena Nadir, told PTI that this step would make abortion accessible to all women. She added, “This would empower women and make India a liberal woman supporting country.”

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