Change in 1971 Abortion Law, and Why India Feels it Necessary - Editorial

Change in 1971 Abortion Law, and Why India Feels it Necessary - Editorial

India Journal of Medical Ethics mentioned in 2015, that 10% to 13% of maternal deaths in India are the result of insecure and high-risk abortions.

· 5 min read

Change in 1971 Abortion Law, and Why India Feels it Necessary - Context

The Union Cabinet Ministry nodded yes, an ever-pending difference to the Medical Ending of Pregnancy Act, 1971 that lifted the legally allowable limit for an abortion to 5.5 months (i.e.24 weeks) from the existing 20 weeks.

The Union Cabinet Ministry has performed well to enable a Bill that demands to change India’s out-fashioned abortion law.

Following the series of efforts and attempts of the Indias’ Health Ministry, the differences also anticipate the failure of contraception as a legitimate reason for abortion not just in married (so-called, Indian commitment) but also in unmarried women (including spinsters as well).

Importantly, this respective equipping inclusive to unmarried women and hence loosens one among the unmodernized clauses of the 1971 Act (Constitution of India) - single women couldn’t quote contraceptive disaster (non-success) as the legal and valid reason for claiming abortion. It also attributes and enables guard the privacy of the individuals seeking an abortion.

Women's Rights Protest against abortion law amendment
Wroclaw, Poland 23/10/2020
Photo by Zuza Gałczyńska / Unsplash


Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare presented the amendments (changes/modifications) for taking down the pregnancy bill after exhaustive dialogue and discussion with various participants and stakeholders and several other concerned ministries.

The advancement aims to increase and enhance the access of girls/women to safe abortion services, taking into consideration the high-tech technological availability in medical technologies.

Recently, several petitions and appeals made round-robin to the Courts, seeking permission for abortion of pregnancies at a fatal age, past the current allowable limit on grounds of embryo abnormalities (malformation) or pregnancies as a result of an unfortunate act of, sexual violence encountered by women.

Amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

  1. It expands the utmost permissible gestation age for abortion to 5.5 months (24 weeks), with the amendments for pregnancies that are betwixt and between 20 and 24 weeks. The opinions or consultations are going to be required from two doctors instead of one.
  2. This modification was introduced considering the “unsafe women, victims of incest (interbreeding), a survivor of rape, women with special needs and minors.
  3. In the medical situation, diagnosed with notable foetal abnormalities, then the upper gestation limit may not apply.
  4. The constitution, establishment, protocols, functions and other needed details of the Indian Medical Board are to be devised in the rules under the act.
  5. These amendments or modification are introduced to keep cases concerning “abortion at gestation age” out of court and empowers the “Medical Board” to scrutinize or inspect these cases and make a judgement.
  6. The original copy of the Bill had mentioned, the clause of “contraceptive failure” just for married women, which, the Indian Health Ministry thinks, would have left unmarried women because they face dreadful (critical) pressures from society for abortion.

Why is the modification in law Important?

  1. Even with regular promotion and encouragement from the government over the years, contraceptive use in India isn't very favoured.
  2. According to an assessment made by the Guttmacher Institute in the year 2018, half of the pregnancies in six larger Indian states are unintended.
  3. Information and input from the National Family Health Survey 4, mentions that only 8% of couples in India, practice and use modern contraceptive methods; only 53% use any contraceptive at all.
  4. The figures from Guttmacher Institute are a bit awkward, and may look unpleasant to many; These figures represent unintended pregnancies.
  • Assam – 55%
  • Bihar – 48%
  • Gujarat – 53%
  • Madhya Pradesh – 50%
  • Tamil Nadu – 43%
  • Uttar Pradesh – 49%
  1. According to a 2016 study published in “The Lancet” (medical journal) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, a guesstimated (approximate) 56 million abortions happened worldwide, annually from 2010 to 2014.
  2. The Lancet (Global Health Journal), published an assessment (study) in the year 2015, put forward by IIPS and Guttmacher Institute, which guesstimated 15.6 million (1.56 crore) abortions took place alone in India in 2015.
  3. This roughly boils down to an abortion rate of 47 per 1K women, aged between 15 and 49, which is comparable and equivalent to the abortion rate in the Indian subcontinent.
  4. Pregnancies extend from 1430K in Assam to 10026K in Uttar Pradesh.
  5. Estimated fact figures for unplanned pregnancies are crucial because many of them end in abortions and hence the availability of cost-effective, safe and secure abortion services is one of the standard benchmarks of a strong health system.

It is about Women's Rights

The MTP Act, of 1971 was filled with uncertain language, this resulted in rejection from doctors to carry out abortions even within the allowable 20-week gestation limit.

Women had to pursue the approval of the judicial system, which in most cases, aren’t always available on time or may not be delivered on time.

India Journal of Medical Ethics mentioned in 2015, that 10% to 13% of maternal deaths in India are the result of insecure and high-risk abortions.

Initiating the proposed amendment (modification) in law, the MTP Bill 2020 “will help lower the number of maternal mortalities”. Stretching the gestation to 24 weeks may be a remarkable step in this regard.

The recommended amendments encompass replacement and change of certain sub-sections, the introduction of new modified clauses to the existing Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, with the hope to extend the gestation limit for ending pregnancy under defined conditions and strengthening access to extensive abortion care, under pre-defined and monitored conditions, without splitting the difference to the service and quality of safe abortion.

Apprehension in the Proposed Bill

One of the disapprovals of the MTP Act, of 1971, is that the act failed to sync with advances made in medical technology that permits the excision of a foetus at a comparatively advanced later state and stage of pregnancy.

However, varied foetus deformity and malformation are detected after the 20th week, often unpleasant experience of turning a planned pregnancy into an unwanted one. The recommended MTP law expects to deal with such medical deadlocks and complications.

But concerns associated with women's over her womb get complex of the social background in many states of India: The primordial inclination for a male child, allow sex determination centres to mountain their earnings, even though they are completely illegal.

The introduction of more liberal abortion law can annoy and provoke this state of affairs. The litmus test of the recommended MTP laws insists (assert) of being women-oriented lies in addressing all concerns.

According to 2017 statistics and figures, 59 nations allowed elective abortions, but only seven authorised the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, these are the Netherlands, North Korea, China, Singapore, North America (Canada and United States), and Vietnam.


The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is for stretching and allowing Indian women to easy access to secure and lawful abortion services on medicinal, constitutional, humanitarian or social grounds.

It is an advancement in the direction of the security and well-being of the women and lots of women are going to be benefitted from this MTP Bill 2020.

Recently, Courts saw incoming, appeals and petitions asking permission for aborting pregnancies at the gestational age beyond the current permissible limit on the bench of foetal malformation & deformity and or pregnancies resulting from sexual violence encountered by women.

The recommended increase in gestational age will ensure dignity and respectability in girls & women, autonomy, privacy, confidentiality and integrity & equality for women who got to terminate the pregnancy (planned and unplanned).