Labour and Social Welfare: Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971
Before 1971 abortion was considered as illegal under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Abortion practitioners would either be incarcerated for up to three years, fined, or both; women undergoing abortions could be imprisoned for up to seven years and also be charged an additional fine.
Many women died attempting illegal abortions as a result of the penal code, and it was a combination of this and the growing population that made the country reconsider its initial stance. Also abortion was thought to be justified in case of the possibility of physical or mental ill health of a woman, death of a pregnant woman, pregnancy as a result of rape etc. Similarly, if the birth of deseased or disabled child of a woman is possible then abortion was considered to be necessary on eugenics ground.
In 1964, the Central Family Planning Board of the Government of India met and formed a committee designed to examine the subject of abortion from medical, legal, social, and moral standpoints. The Abortion Study Committee submitted a report with its suggestions in December 1966. This report considered the penal code to be too restrictive and recommended that the law’s qualifications should be relaxed; many of these suggestions were included in the subsequent Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 enacted by the Central Government on 10 August, 1971.
The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971 was enacyed with a view to give limited exemption to medical termination of pregnamcy or abortion. An Act to provide for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners.
(1) This Act had been enacted by the Central Government and extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
(2) It is known as social legislstion because it deals with the social problems.
The Act has defined several terms:
It means a person having the care of the person of a minor or a lunatic;
It means a person who, under the provisions of the Indian Majority Act, 1875, is to be deemed not to have attained his majority,
(3) Registered medical practitioner
It means a medical practitioner who possesses any recognized medical qualification, whose name has been entered in a State Medical Register and who has such experience or training in gynecology and obstetrics as may be prescribed by rules made under this Act.
Main Provisions in the Act
1. When Pregnancies may be terminated by registered medical practitioners. (Sec. -3)-
(1) A registered medical practitioner shall not be guilty of any offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law, if any pregnancy is terminated by him in accordance with the provisions of this Act. A pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner:-
(a) where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks, or
(b) where the length of the pregnancy exceeds 12 weeks but does not exceed 20 weeks, if not less than two registered medical practitioners are of opinion that-
(i) the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health; or
(ii) there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
(2) (a) The abortion of women with age below 18 years or lunatic women with age above 18 years is not allowed if the consent of the woman as well as guardian is not taken.
(b) No pregnancy shall be terminated except with the consent of the pregnant woman.
2. Place where pregnancy may be terminated. (Sec. 4) –
No termination of pregnancy shall be made at any place other than,-
(a) a hospital established or maintained by Government, or
(b) a place for the time being approved by Government, district level committee constituted by government with the Chief Medical Officer or the District Health Officer as the chairperson of the Committee. The district level committee, constituted by the government, shall contain 3 to 5 members including the chairperson.
3. Exemptions in Provisions (Sec. 5) –
Sections 3 and 4 will not apply in the following cases:
(1) The provisions of Sec.4 and some portion of the provisions of Sec. 3 as relate to the length of the pregnancy and the opinion of not less than two registered medical practioner, shall not apply to the termination of a pregnancy by the registered medical practitioner in case where he is of opinion, formed in good faith, that the termination of such pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Penal Code, the termination of a pregnancy by a person who is not a registered medical practitioner shall be an offence punishable under that Code, i.e. rigorous imprisonmemt for a term of not less than 2 years but may extend to 7 years.
4. Power to make rules. (Sec. 6) –
(1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act.
(2) Such rules may provide for the experience or training, or both, which a registered medical practitioner shall have if he intends to terminate any pregnancy under this Act ; and
(3) Every rule made by the Central Government under this Act shall be laid before each House of Parliament within prescribed time limit. Parliament may allow, modify or nullify the rule.
5. Power to make regulations. (Sec 7) –
(1) The State Government may, by regulations,-
(a) require any such opinion as is referred to in Sec. 3 to be certified by a registered medical practitioner or practitioners concerned in such form and at such time as be specified in such regulations, and the preservation or disposal of such certificates;
(b) require any registered medical practitioner, who terminates a pregnancy to give intimation of such termination and any other information relating to the termination;
(c) prohibit the disclosure, except to such persons and for such purposes as may be specified in such regulations, of intimations given or information furnished in pursuance of such regulations.
(2) The intimation given and the information furnished in pursuance of regulations shall be given or furnished to the Chief Medical Officer of the State.
(3) Any person who wilfully contravenes or wilfully fails to comply with the requirements of any regulation made shall be liable to be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.
8. Protection of action taken in good faith. (Sec 8) –
No suit for other legal proceedings shall lie against any registered medical practitioner for any damage caused likely to be caused by anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this act.
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