What are the benefits of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to women? Also examine issues involved in using the MTP Act.?
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) 1971 was enacted with the intention of reducing incidents of illegal abortions and maternal mortality rate (MMR). It clearly lays down the provision of women who are qualified to undergo abortion and under what circumstances. In it's present form, it permits women to undergo an abortion only up to 20 weeks with the opinion of 2 doctors and up to 12 weeks with the opinion of only one doctor. The recent proposal for amendment of the act brings along with it several benefits for women.
Benefits to women
- Ensures right to live with dignity- under Art. 21 of the Constitution allows a woman take the call for abortion by allowing her to exercise the right to reproductive freedom in case she is not in a position to raise her child with dignity.
- Reduction in MMR due to illegal abortions- maternal deaths due to abortion account for 8% of the maternal deaths.
- Increased availability of legal means of abortion- availability of trained mid level providers, doctors; crackdown on illegal abortion clinics, allows women to undergo the process legally.
- Personal circumstances taken into account- such as rape survivor, unplanned pregnancy, divorce, death of the partner, inability of the woman to raise the child single-handedly on her own.
- Son-preference- misuse of the provisions of the act for sex-selective abortions; skewing of sex ratio.
- Pro-life argument- even a foetus has the right to life, abortion being a violation of the same.
- Relevance of the 20 week period- many foetal diseases and birth defects are detected after the 20 week period, which puts into question the rationality behind the 20 week limit.
- Power of decision making- lies with the medical practictioners and still doesn't take into account the viewpoint of the of the woman.
- Education- about risk to women using abortion as a means of contraception, planned parenthood.
- Counselling services- rendered by doctors to the mother before ultrasound scan and abortion.
- Increase time limit for abortion- proposed limit under the amendment is 24 weeks.
- Regulation & prevent misuse- strict laws to prevent misuse of MTP act; engagement of NGOs, medical practicioners for monitoring at grassroot levels.
The benefits of the MTP act are many but need to be used with utmost care and respect for the rights of an unborn human being.