The amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act proposes to extend the abortion time limit from the existing 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the need of which was first highlighted in 2008 when Harsh and Niketa Mehta approached Bombay High Court to allow them to abort their 26-week-old foetus, which had been diagnosed with a heart defect. It further allows practitioners of alternative medicine such as AYUSH, homoeopathy to carry out abortions through non-surgical methods.
However, the Union cabinet has not taken up for consideration and the PMO have asked the health ministry to ensure better implementation of the MTP Act 1971 and the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 which are meant to crack down on sex-selective abortions.
Sources said that after the Sangli incident, in which a homoeopathy doctor was caught allegedly running an illegal sex-selective abortion racket that led to the death of a woman in March, there were concerns in the PMO over whether increasing the provider base for abortions would lead to an uncontrolled rise in such incidents.
As per the Ballpark, estimates suggested that in India, 1 woman dies in 2 hours because of unsafe abortions in India. Abortions in India, needs to be reported but only 7 lakh of the estimated 70 lakh abortions that happen in India every year are documented. The rest remains undisclosed.
Foetal defects may not be detected before 18 weeks and to ask prospective parents to decide on something as emotional as an abortion in the next two weeks is hardly justified. This is another reason for couples to go for abortions by unqualified practitioners, keeping it undisclosed.
Another important change that a new MTP Act would have brought in is that it would have ensured safe abortions for both married and single women.
Further, the health ministry is also in the process of amending the PC & PNDT Act, so as to ensure that doctors are not unjustly punished for errors in information supplied by a patient who has come for an ultrasound. Also, the need to have a physical copy of the Act on the premises or penal provisions for the doctor not wearing an apron are also in the process of being dropped.