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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bill to increase abortion upper limit gets Rajya Sabha nod, Oppn seeks panel scrutiny

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan introduced the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 17 last year.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
March 17, 2021 4:04:17 am
Several Opposition MPs raised objections to provisions which amount to “invasion of privacy” and create “bureaucratic hurdles”.

The Rajya Sabha Tuesday passed a Bill to increase the upper limit for allowing abortions — from 20 weeks to 24 weeks during the pregnancy — for certain “special categories of women”, including rape survivors, victims of incest, those with disabilities and minors, even as the Opposition demanded that it be sent to a select committee for further scrutiny.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan introduced the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 17 last year.

Introducing the Bill, Vardhan told the House that extensive consultations were held before the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha and it was also approved by the Ethics Committee and a Group of Ministers headed by Nitin Gadkari. He said the Bill is a step towards safety and well-being of a woman and it will enlarge the ambit and access of women to safe and legal abortion without compromising on safety and quality of care, and will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy.

However, several Opposition MPs raised objections to provisions which amount to “invasion of privacy” and create “bureaucratic hurdles”.

Speaking about the medical board of specialists mentioned in the Bill, which will have to be approached by women for getting permission to terminate pregnancy, Congress member Amee Yajnik said, “Why should a woman be relegated to a medical board which we don’t know whether it would be manned by specialist doctors or whether they have that objectivity of taking a decision. No time frame to taking a decision by these boards is prescribed.”

Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa submitted a resolution to send the Bill to a select committee.

Shiv Sena, NCP, CPI, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party members also raised similar points, and many asked that the Bill be sent to a select committee.

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