New Delhi: The Union Cabinet has approved changes in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the draft of which has been circulated by the ministry of health and family welfare. According to the draft, the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy will be extended from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. “Failure of contraceptive” will be considered a legal reason for abortion also to unmarried women. The Bill will be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament.

“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,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said, adding this would ensure safe termination and give women reproductive rights over their bodies. “This is important because in first five months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn’t realise and has to go to court,” the minister added, saying that this was a demand from a section of women and, doctors.

The provision, so far, was only for married women.

According to the existing rules, pregnancies may be terminated by registered medical practitioners
(a) Where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks if such medical practitioner is, or
(b) Where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks, if not less than two registered medical practitioners are, of opinion, formed in good faith, that –
(i) The continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or
(ii) There is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped.

This section contains two explanations in the Act:

Explanation 1- Where any pregnancy is alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape, the anguish caused by such pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.

Explanation 2- Where any pregnancy occurs as a result of the failure of any device or method used by any married woman or her husband for the purpose of limiting the number of children, the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.