The government of India on Tuesday brought in new rules increasing the gestational limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for certain categories of women. The rules come under Section 6 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act).
The Parliament had amended the MTP Act in March 2021 and increased the gestational limit for medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks from 20 weeks for “certain categories of women.” The new rules elaborate upon the phrase “certain categories of women.”
Under the new rules, minors and survivors of sexual assault, rape or incest are eligible for termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks. The rules also cover women with physical disabilities, mental illness, and substantial foetal malformation. Further, women who undergo a change of marital status while pregnant, such as widows and divorcees are also permitted to terminate their pregnancy up to 24 weeks. Women in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations will also be permitted to terminate their pregnancy up to 24 weeks, provided that the government specifically declares the same.
The amended act also provided for the formation of a medical board by state governments. The new rules define the powers and functions of this board. The new rules say that the medical board has the power to sanction termination of a pregnancy after 24 weeks of gestation if the diagnosis of any substantial foetal abnormalities necessitates it. In such cases, the medical board has to form an opinion within 3 days of receiving a request for an abortion.