New Delhi, October 16: This week the Union Government has notified new rules under Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021 in which the gestational limit for medical termination of pregnancy has been extended from the present 20 to 24 weeks for some categories of women. These rules have been notified under section 6 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

The new amendment will be specifically for women who are rape victims, minors, survivors of sexual assault or incest, those whose marital status changed during pregnancy (widowhood and divorce) and for women with physical disabilities.

Also, the new law will apply to those women who are mentally ill, cases of foetal malformation in which there is a substantial risk of physical or mental abnormalities and women in disasters or emergency situations as declared by the government.

Earlier, abortion could be performed with the approval of one doctor if it occurred within 12 weeks of conception, and two physicians if it took place between 12 to 20 weeks. The only requirement now for abortion is an approval of a doctor till the 20th week of pregnancy. And only if the period extends till 24 weeks, then two doctors will decide and approval of both would be needed.

If the foetus has been diagnosed with serious health problems, abortion can be performed at any time. Special medical board will have the authority to make a final judgement in this matter. A gynaecologist, a paediatrician, a radiologist, and a government official will make up the board. The board will examine the records of the doctor who treats the patient before granting authorization for abortion. Within three days of receiving the request, the medical boards must evaluate the lady and her reports and either accept or reject the application for medical termination of pregnancy.

The boards must also guarantee that, when abortion is recommended, it is carried out with all necessary safeguards and counselling. The procedure must be completed within five days of the board's receipt of the request.

The name and other personal information of the woman who terminated the pregnancy will not be disclosed unless it is required by law. The individual who breaks the confidentiality agreement will be punished with imprisonment for a year.

“We welcome the new rules. However, given the advancements in scientific and medical technology the world has witnessed over the years, the extended 24 weak gestation period should be for all women and not just ‘special categories of women’,” said Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of Population Following of India.

However, “The creation of state medical boards could potentially create impediments for women's access to abortion services as many women discover they are pregnant at a later stage,” she added.

"I hope that this is a first step towards making safe abortion accessible to all women and not just restricted to women in special categories. This would empower women and make India a liberal woman supporting country," said Dr Loveleena Nadir, a senior gynaecologist saying that the new rules are a leap ahead for women’s reproductive choices.