No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she
will or will not be a mother.
? Margaret Sanger
Termination of pregnancy is also known as Abortion in common language. It is the
ending of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo. An abortion that
occurs without intervention is known as a Miscarriage or "spontaneous abortion"
and occurs in approximately 30% to 40% of pregnancies. When deliberate steps are
taken to end a pregnancy, it is called an induced abortion, or less frequently
"induced miscarriage". When properly done, abortion is one of the safest
procedures in medicine but unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal death
especially in the developing world. while making safe abortion legal and
accessible reduces maternal deaths.
The World health organization states that "access to legal, safe and
comprehensive abortion care, including post abortion care, is essential for the
attainment of the highest possible level of sexual and reproductive
health" Around 56 million abortions are performed each year in the world, with
about 45% done unsafely. between countries that ban abortion and countries that
Historically abortions have been attempted using herbal medicines, sharp
tools, forceful massage, or through other traditional methods [i].Abortion
laws and cultural or religious views of abortions are different around the
world. In some areas abortion is legal only in specific cases such
as rape, fetal defects, poverty, risk to a woman's health. There is debate over
the moral, ethical, and legal issues of abortion. Those who oppose abortion
often argue that an embryo or fetus is a person with a right to life, and they
may compare abortion to murder. Those who support the legality of abortion often
hold that it is part of a woman’s right to make decision about her own body.
Others favour legal and accessible abortion as a public health measure.
Termination of pregnancy in India
Before 1971 there was not any legal provision for abortion under the Indian
Penal Code 1860.[ii] Abortion was highly illegal.
Abortion was criminalized under Section 312 [iii]of the Indian Penal Code,1860
According to this section:
Whoever voluntarily tries to cause the miscarriage
to a woman except in the good faith or where the woman’s life in danger shall be
liable for imprisonment which may extend to three years and shall also be liable
Anyone who dared to get an abortion was imprisoned for seven years with
additional fine. Many women died because of illegal, unsafe abortion practices
in a hidden manner. Abortion was seen as a stigma and in an unethical manner.
Abortion was thought to be justified if the woman was suffering from some
physical or mental illness, in the possibility of assault or rape, or in case of
a stillborn baby.
Earlier when there was not any provision for legalized abortion, it was very
hard to abort a child in a legalized manner under some circumstances. After
the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971[iv] which legalized the practice
of abortion in a safer and convenient manner, it has now relaxed the abortion
law. Still, there are many countries in the world with strict and rigid abortion
Still, even in today’s times thousand of women die in India every day
because of illegal and unsafe abortion practices. Every day 13 women die [v]in
India due to unsafe abortion-related practices. These statistics are horrifying.
Even after the commencement of the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act
1971, there are still a lot of women who are dying because of unsafe abortion
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971
Historical background of the Act
In India, the Central family planning board of India made a committee named as Shantilal
Shah Committee in 1964.[vi] It recommended the liberalization of abortion laws
to make it more effective and to reduce the unsafe abortions and maternal
mortality rates which were associated with illegal abortions. It was made to
study and scrutinize why abortion is necessary from the view of moral, ethical,
legal, and scientific manner.
The Shantilal committee submitted a report which
had detailed observations in December 1966. On the recommendation of this
committee, in 1969 a medical termination bill was introduced in both the Lok
Sabha and Rajya Sabha and was passed by the parliament in 1971.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was implemented from 1972. The act was
further revised in the year 1975 to make it less complicated and more effective.
This act was implemented with the view to facilitate safer abortions in a
legalized manner in certain circumstances. It provides for the termination of
pregnancy by a licensed registered medical practitioner. Its preamble depicts a
very clear meaning. It states that “Only a registered medical practitioner has a
right for the termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances”.
During the last 30 years, many countries such as Great Britain, Greece and Spain
have made abortion laws flexible. There are nowadays very few countries that
still have strict and rigid abortion laws. The Medical termination of pregnancy
Act 1971 is considered ahead of its time when it first came into effect.
Silent features of the Act
Section 2(d) [i] of the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act 1971 defines Registered Medical Practitioner
According to it:
A Registered Medical
’ means any medical practitioner who possesses required medical
qualifications which is defined in section 2 of the Indian Medical Council Act
1956 [ii] and whose name has been registered in the state medical register and
who possess required medical skills in gynaecology and obstetrics which are
prescribed under the said act.
Section 3 of the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act 1971 provides that:
When pregnancies may be terminated by the registered medical practitioners.
- A registered medical practitioner should not be guilty of any offence
which has been mentioned in the IPC or any other law during the time of the
termination of pregnancy by him according to the provisions of the law
- Where the duration and time of pregnancy have not exceeded more than 12
- Where the duration and time of pregnancy have exceeded 12 weeks but not
the 20 weeks, in this case by the opinions of the two medical practitioners
in good faith.
- The continuation of the pregnancy will be a grave danger for a woman’s
physical or mental health
- When there is anticipation that the child born out of this pregnancy
will be prone to detrimental physical and mental health and will be
One important point is to be noted, guardian’s or parent’s written consent is
required for terminating the pregnancy of any minor girl or any girl who is
above the age of eighteen but is insane or lunatic.
Needs for amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971
- Currently, women who want to terminate their pregnancy beyond 20
weeks require too many legal complications but this bill seeks to amend
the legal provisions of termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24
- As many women die daily because of unsafe and illegal abortions.
This bill seeks to provide safety and protection to pregnant women more
safely and conveniently.
- One of the criticisms of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act is
it failed to keep up with modern technology. As it came in 1971 and that
time the technology was not that advanced so it requires an amendment.
- In the Act, it is mentioned that the legal written consent of the
guardian is required in case if the girl is a minor or below 18 years of
age and above 18 years if the woman is insane or lunatic. The proposed
bill seeks to the exclusion of this provision which is mentioned in the
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.
- This proposed bill will simplify the complicated legal provisions
which are given in the current Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act
1971. This will further ease the way for many women for safer
termination of pregnancy in a more convenient and effective way.
The Union Cabinet approved the bill in January 2020 under the leadership of
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was approved by President on march 25 2021, now
Abortion in India is done according to the provisions of this act.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021
Historical Background and overview of the Act
The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Ministry of Health and Family
Welfare, Dr Harshvardhan Goyal on March 2, 2020. It seeks to amend the Medical
Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 which is about safe and legalized abortion. It
also seeks to amend certain provisions of the Act.
The Act also seeks to extend the termination of pregnancy from 20 to 24 weeks,
making it easier and convenient for a woman to legally abort the unwanted
pregnancy in a safe and secure manner. It also seeks to increase the safety
practices, gestation period, and confidentiality of pregnant women.
The ministry of family and health care proposed this act after seeking advice
and consultation from various experts, doctors, consultants, and various
ministries. The proposed bill also seeks to make use of advanced medical and
healthcare tips and techniques which unfortunately did not exist in 1971.
Several Public Interest Litigations were filed for the termination of the
pregnancies beyond the period of 20 weeks of gestation period.
So, that even the
victims of rapes, sexual assaults, and women having physical and mental
deformities can medically terminate their pregnancies. It was finally approved
by the President on march 25th 2021 now it’s The Medical Termination of
pregnancy Act 2021[ix]
Salient features of the Act
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 seeks to include the
rape and assault victims, incestuous victims, minor girls, differently-abled
girls, and women with fetal deformities.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy
(Amendment) Bill 2020 seeks to widen the ambit of the Medical Termination of
Pregnancy Act 1971. There are several salient features of the act which have
been mentioned below.
- It amended the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971
- The Act seeks the need of one registered medical practitioner
instead of two in case of termination of pregnancy with a gestation
period of more than 20 weeks. This is given in Section 3(2)(b) [x]of
the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971
- It introduces a new provision of seeking the advice of two or
more registered medical practitioners in case of the termination of
pregnancy of the gestation period between 20-24 weeks.
- The act widen the ambit of the MTP Act 1971 and it included a special
category of women that include, differently-abled women, rape survivors, minor
girls, and victims of incest.
- This act also increased the maximum gestation period for
termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks so that many
women can take advantage of it and can successfully terminate their
pregnancies which are endangered to their lives
- The act also maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of the
women who want to terminate their pregnancies. This is rather a new
concept which protect the identity of women.
- No medical practitioner will reveal the identity of any woman
who wants to terminate her pregnancy according to any law in force
at that time.
- Conditions in which a woman can medically terminate her
pregnancy includes where there is the apprehension of grave endanger
to her physical and mental health, in case of fetal deformities,
where a woman got pregnant in case of failure of any contraception
device, where the woman got pregnant as a result of rape, this can
cause serious mental anguish on her mind.
So, these are some of the salient features of the Medical Termination of the
Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021.
Changes proposed in conditions for terminating a pregnancy at different
|Time since conception
||Requirement for terminating
||Requirement for terminating
||MTP Act , 1971
||MTP Act, 2021
|Up to 12 weeks
||Advice of one doctor
||Advice of one doctor
|12 to 20 weeks
||Advice of two doctors
||Advice of one doctor
|20 to 24 weeks
||Two doctors for some categories
of pregnant women
|More than 24 weeks
||Medical Board in case of
substantial foetal abnormality
|Any time during the pregnancy
||One doctor, if immediately
necessary to save pregnant woman's life
||One doctor, if immediately
necessary to save pregnant woman's life
Various other laws related to abortion in India
There are various other abortion laws in India. Abortion in India is legalized
under certain circumstances. It is estimated that approximately 15.6 million
take place in India every year. While out of these many unsafe and illegal
abortions takes place in India daily which causes the death of the women. Apart
from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, there are various strategies
and policies by the government and the Ministry of Family and Health Welfare for
Comprehensive Abortion Care-Service Delivery and Training Guidelines 2010[xi]–
These guidelines provide for all the comprehensive and detailed information
regarding abortion. It also involves legal issues associated with it. These
guidelines are used by both State Government and Union Territories for
comprehensive abortion care of women in India.
CAC Training Package- Ministry of health and family welfare developed a
standardized training system and scheme that provides providers, trainers, and
operational guidelines on comprehensive abortion care. It was made in 2014 after
consultation with all the medical experts for training doctors in all states and
State Programme Implementation Plans:
All states and union territories are required to submit their plans and
strategies and policies as a part of the National Health Mission for
implementation of health policies at public health facilities. These are being
reviewed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and then the budget is
being allotted accordingly.
Ensuring safe abortion practices and to stop gender-biased practices and biased
sex determination. The Government has introduced MTP 1971 and the Preconception
and Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act, 1994 [xii] that makes sex determination of
the fetus illegal.
Health Management Information System:
It is an initiative by the Ministry of
Family and health welfare under the National Health Mission which provides
intrinsic details regarding health care services that are offered in the public
sector. This Portal is updated regularly.
National Mass Media Campaign:
This was launched by the Ministry of Health and
family welfare in 2014 to make abortions safer. It was one of its kind
first-ever mass media campaigns. It focussed on normalizing the abortions and to
adopt safer practices regarding it.
Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. It also deals with the illegal and
forced Abortion. According to this Section, whoever voluntarily causes a woman
to miscarry a child except for good faith or where a woman has some physical and
mental complications if she continues the pregnancy then the person will be
liable for imprisonment which may extend to 3 years and shall also be liable to
- This act increased the gestation period required for the abortion from
20 weeks to 24 weeks. With these new provisions, women who have fetal
abnormalities which have been detected after the 20th week, now they can
also medically terminate their pregnancy. With this increment in the upper
gestation limit and this coupled with the advanced medical technologies can
now help a woman to have safe and effective abortions
- But, this upper gestation limit for abortion is only for rape survivors,
incest victims, and women having serious physical and mental health
problems. Thus the act still lacks many provisions. Women who do not belong
to these special categories mentioned above will require special consent and
certain legal complications will be there if she wants to go for abortion.
- Abortion is the absolute right of a woman. No woman can be compelled to
have an abortion. The reasons for The reasons for getting an abortion need
not be proved under the MTP Act 1971, therefore a woman has to plead before
a doctor for getting an abortion. The woman who wants to terminate her
pregnancy solely on her will is quite difficult. This 2021 Act still lacks
the complete autonomy of a woman to legally and medically terminate her
pregnancy. Because of this, a woman has to be mentally stressed and
physically burdened to get the doctor’s consent.
- Section 3(2) of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 provides
that a woman can go for abortion in case of the failure of any contraceptive
device by either a married man or a married woman. This section is
prejudicial to unmarried women. However, The recent amendment in the act
2021 on this also fails to amend this provision.
- The MTP Act 2021 is a step in the right direction, however, it fails to
reduce the stigma against unmarried women. Also, it does not allow abortion
at any time of pregnancy.
- However, the Act does not provide for the upper gestation limit for
having an abortion in case of fetal abnormalities. In the past, one had to
pass through complicated legal recourse and cumbersome process for getting
Therefore, we can say that the Act is up to par with new and advanced medical
techniques. However, it still lacks many provisions.
The Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act 2021 is a new ray of light for
women who wants to practice safe abortions and for those who want to legally
terminate their pregnancies. However, India has to go a long way to reduce and
eradicate the practice of unsafe abortions. The failure and success of MTP act
2021depend on the strategies and policies that are used to implement the
guidelines given in it. If these guidelines will be implemented with the proper
care and precautions, then it can act as a boon for women who want to go for
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Hemlata Singh
- Law Student at University School of Law and Legal Studies, GGSIPU
Authentication No: JU34232388479-1-0621