By Kamlesh Tripathi
There are 544 members in the 16th Lok Sabha, and 244 members in the Rajya Sabha, which totals up to 788 MPs. Out of this there are 93 women MPs. That includes the powerful speaker of Lok-Sabha who happens to be a lady. And, yet they don’t have the time and will, and needed to be reminded about the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014. Pending for a long time now. I am more than sure they all understand the seriousness about abortion laws. Especially, when the foetus has abnormalities or is an ugly consequence of a rape. The editorial in Times of India is an apt reminder not only to our women MPs, who should use women power to get the bill through but even to all our legislators. Currently the apex courts are doing the job of legislators. Read the article below.
IT’S HER BODY
Today’s society and science demand an upgrade of the abortion law 1971
Parliament’s lackluster pace of legislating leaves citizens suffering various outdated laws. Two cases in the courts this week draw attention to the human costs of a delay in amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971—even though an updated draft has been on the table for years. Both cases concern the medical terminations of pregnancy being permitted only up to 20 weeks, a limit that made sense in terms of society and science four decades ago but is seriously out of step with the many developments since. When law’s failure to keep pace with science and global best practices becomes the cause of citizen’s suffering, its very purpose is subverted.
In one case on Monday the Supreme Court allowed a rape survivor to terminate her 24-week old pregnancy. This is the first judicially sanctioned abortion beyond 20 weeks. It followed upon a medical board reporting severe abnormalities in the foetus and its threatening implications for the petitioner. The point of note is that medical technology today can disclose much more information about the foetus after 20 weeks than earlier. Plus, it can make termination of the pregnancy safe for the carrying woman even at 24 weeks.
In another case also on Monday the Delhi high court granted similar relief to a teenaged rape survivor, provided an AIIMS medical panel certifies that the abortion of her 25-week foetus would be safe for this minor. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the apex court that the existing law, with its 2002 amendment, is adequate to handling pregnancy complications warranting abortion after 20 weeks. But the above two cases show that women stuck in such a situation have to seek an exception through the courts, which imposes additional trauma upon women who are already traumatized. Given the logjam at our courts, this also leaves their life in a race against time.
The draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014 provides for abortion beyond 20 weeks under well defined conditions such as if mother’s life is endangered or the pregnancy is caused by rape. Centre should push for this updated legislation instead of upholding a status quo scripted four decades ago. Medical opinion and women’s groups are agreed and it is not even politically contentious. Every delay in passing an upgrade endangers many women’s lives.