The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) draft bill says abortions can be performed not only by allopathic doctors but by Ayurvedas, homoeopaths and midwives as well.
The draft bill, put up on the Union health ministry’s website for suggestions on Thursday, has increased the abortion limit from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks. “The draft says there is no time limit in case doctors detect a foetal abnormality,” said gynecologist Dr Nikhil Datar, who took the issue to the Supreme Court six years ago while treating Bhayander resident Niketa Mehta.
Mehta’s unborn baby was detected with heart anomaly, prompting her to seek an abortion beyond the 20-week period. Two other Mumbaikars—allowed by the Supreme Court to only be identified as Mrs X and Mrs Y (see box)—joined Datar’s petition last year.
Experts believe the draft bill is one of the most liberal abortion documents. “This is the biggest advancement of women’s rights since the passage of the MTP Act in 1971,” said Vinod Manning of Ipas, an international NGO that works for the right to safe abortions. Indian women not only have to travel 20 to 45km to get access to an abortion centre, but one dies every two hours due to unsafe abortions, shows an Ipas study.