Govt extends upper limit for permitting abortions to 24 weeks

Govt extends upper limit for permitting abortions to 24 weeks

The government has extended the upper limit for permitting abortions to 24 weeks, from the current 20 weeks, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters at a Cabinet briefing today, highlighting the increase as a "progressive reform (that) gives women reproductive rights over their bodies".

 The news comes about four months after the centre told the Supreme Court that right to reproductive autonomy did not outweigh State's interest in protecting a foetus' life and the 20 week limit could not be extended in a blanket manner.

"In a progressive reform and giving reproductive rights to women, the limit of 20 weeks of medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to 24 weeks," Mr Javadekar said, adding this would ensure safe termination and give women reproductive rights over their bodies

"This is important because in first five months there are cases where the girl concerned doesn't realise and has to go to court," the minister added, saying that this was a demand from a section of women and, doctors.

In September, responding to a plea that challenged the constitutional validity a law that fixed 20 weeks as the ceiling for an abortion, the centre said the State was morally and duty bound, as the guardian of its citizens, to safeguard the life of a foetus in the womb after it attains the stage of viability.

The government also claimed that studies had repeatedly found in cases where serious abnormalities were detected after the twentieth week, pregnant woman who chose to carry the pregnancy to term were able to better cope with the loss, mental anguish and trauma as compared to woman who chose to terminate the pregnancy.

The petitioners had sought to extend the ceiling to 26 weeks.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill (2020) to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) will be introduced in the next parliament session.