Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: An Overview

Currently, if an abortion is performed within 12 weeks of conception, one doctor must approve it, and if it is performed between 12 and 20 weeks, two physicians must approve it. It means, as per the amended law, when a woman is between 20 and 24 weeks pregnant, it permits abortion on the advice of two physicians, as opposed to one doctor up to 20 weeks.

In situations of significant fetal abnormalities, the it also establishes state-level Medical Boards to determine whether a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks.

Critical Points and Analysis

There are varying views on whether or not abortions should be permitted. One viewpoint holds that the pregnant woman's right to use her reproductive options includes the choice to end the pregnancy. The second is that the state should ensure the protection of the fetus since it has a duty to safeguard life. Based on the health of the fetus and the risk to the expectant mother, various conditions and time restrictions are imposed by nations across the world for the legalization of abortions.

Women have submitted a number of Writ Petitions asking for approval to terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks due to fetal abnormalities or rape. The Act only permits abortions after 24 weeks in situations where a Medical Board has determined that the fetus has significant defects. This suggests that in a situation requiring abortions due to rape.

The Act leaves it up to the rules to define the types of women who are permitted to end pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks. It might be claimed that these issues should be decided by Parliament rather than the executive branch of government.

Only doctors who specialize in gynecology or obstetrics are permitted to conduct abortions under the Act's (and the Bill's) restrictions. Pregnant women may still have trouble finding somewhere to get safe abortions since there is a 75% shortage of these doctors in community health centers in remote areas.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971's goals

The Preamble to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, contains a statement of the Act's purpose. The Act's Preamble reads as follows

"An Act to provide for items associated with or ancillary thereto, and to provide for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners."

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 limits the types of pregnancies that can be stopped by trained medical personnel. The Act's main goals are to improve maternal health among Indian women and lower the fatality rate among women who have unsafe or illegal abortions. Women had the right to safe abortions only after this Act, and then only in certain situations.

Issues with the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act

It contains

  • The Act does not give pregnant women a specific right to end their pregnancies after 20 weeks. It also has a lot of legal barriers. In order to expand the gestational termination time from 20 to 24 weeks, a legislative measure has to be introduced.

  • One of the main goals of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, which was to protect pregnant women and provide them the power to end their pregnancies at their discretion, was not achieved.

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act has come under fire for not utilizing modern technology. It has to be changed because it was put into effect in 1971, when technology wasn't very advanced.

  • In accordance with the act's rules, the girl must have the guardian's written approval if she is a juvenile or younger than 18 years old, or older if she is mad or a lunatic.

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 was also charged with making already difficult legal processes even more difficult. We need measures that are simpler and more practical.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 had these flaws; so, an Amendment Act was drafted to fill in the gaps. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2002, was the name of the Amendment Act.


According to renowned American nurse Faye Wattleton

"A wide range of concerns depend on reproductive freedom. We cannot take care of everything if we are unable to control this most private area of our existence. It should be seen as a fundamental human right rather than a privilege or a reward.”

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021, offers some hope to people who want to legally stop their unintended pregnancies as well as to women who desire access to safe abortions. India still has to take more steps to limit and ultimately eradicate the practice of illegal abortions. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions around the country must adhere to all professional norms and laws, and the government must ensure this.

In addition, the debate over abortion needs to be resolved in a way that respects human rights, sound scientific theory, and technical advancements. The success or failure of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021, will depend on the techniques and processes used to carry out the regulations it contains. Only if they are carried out properly with the required thoroughness and care might these ideas help women who want to abort.

Contrarily, more women will have direct access to safer pregnancy termination services thanks to the prevailing Amendment Act, and those who need to stop a pregnancy will be treated with justice, respect, and liberty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is it illegal to end a pregnancy in India?

Ans. Intentionally terminating a pregnancy is illegal, according to the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 allowed certain types of doctors to end a pregnancy under specific circumstances. A doctor can agree to end a pregnancy at any time up to 12 weeks, and two doctors can concur to end it at any time up to 20 weeks. It was only lawful to terminate a pregnancy if doing so would endanger the woman's life, seriously harm her psychological or physical health, or result in birth abnormalities for the unborn child. In addition, if it's necessary to end the pregnancy at any time for medical reasons.

Is finished the new Amendment Act has expanded the maximum period for a medically assisted pregnancy termination from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for a few specific groups of women. Additionally, it establishes state-level medical boards and relaxes the prohibition in instances of significant fetal abnormalities. According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons for the Act, numerous cases have been filed in the Supreme Court and numerous High Courts requesting authorization to end pregnancies after the 20-week limit set forth in the Act is reached because of genetic anomalies or because they were born after sexual assault or rape. Additionally, it notes that the upper limit for medically ending a pregnancy may be increased as clinical science and technology advance.

Q2. Are transgender people covered under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 2021?

Ans. It is noteworthy that India's Transgender Persons (Protections and Rights) Act, 2019, recognizes transgender people as a separate gender. Several medical studies have shown that transgender people who through medical treatment transforms from being male to female and is not exclusively woman may become pregnant after undergoing gender reassignment, which justifies the use of pregnancy termination services. It is unclear if transgender people will be protected because the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021 only applies to female pregnancies.

Q3. Can a pregnancy be terminated in accordance with the recently passed Amendment Act after the allotted 24-week window?

Ans. Pregnancy termination after the stipulated limit of 24 weeks is prohibited by law. A pregnant woman is, nevertheless, free to ask a court for authorization to end her pregnancy under specific conditions. These requests must be supported by compelling evidence of a serious life danger or fetal abnormalities. The Supreme Court has approved a pregnancy abortion after the legal limit of 24 weeks on the basis of significant fetal deformities. However, there have been several occasions when the court has rejected such approval.

Updated on: 07-Mar-2023


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