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The Parliament has finally passed The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which increases the upper limit for abortions from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women, and removes limits in the case of substantial foetal abnormalities. The bill was passed on Tuesday with the Rajya Sabha approving the chances, despite majority of the opposition members demanding that the bill should be sent to select committee as it lacks privacy clause. However, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Parliament that nobody opposed the bill and once enacted, it will reduce the trauma and suffering of women. Mention may be made that the Lok Sabha had passed the bill in March last year.
At present, women seeking abortion require mandatory opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks. Under the new act, a pregnancy can be aborted on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and in case of upto 24 weeks, two doctors' opinion will be sought.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, also includes a provision for setting up state-level Medical Boards to decide if a pregnancy should be terminated beyond 24 weeks in cases of foetal abnormalities.
Abortion refers to the ending of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or foetus. If properly done, abortion can save women's and girls' lives or improve their health, but unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal death, especially in the developing world.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), three out of ten of all pregnancies end in induced abortion, which is when deliberate steps are taken to end a pregnancy. Unfortunately, nearly half of all abortions are unsafe, and almost all of these unsafe abortions take place in developing countries, it said.
"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," WHO noted.
Abortions can be carried out safely using a method that is recommended by WHO and that is appropriate to the pregnancy duration, and by an expert who has the necessary skills. Induced abortions can be done either using tablets (medical abortion) or a simple outpatient procedure. An unsafe abortion is when the procedure is carried out either by a person lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.
Unsafe abortion procedures, according to WHO, are:
Women with unwanted pregnancies often resort to unsafe abortion when they do not have access to safe abortion. Unsafe abortion can lead to immediate health risks including death as well as long-term complications. Not only unsafe abortion can affect women's physical and mental health, but her well-being throughout her life-course. It also has financial implications for women and communities, WHO stated.
With inputs from IANS
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