Legal Aspects of MTP

“Medical Termination and Pregnancy Act” has gone a long way in reducing the maternal mortality associated with unsafe and illegal abortions in India.

“Medical Termination and Pregnancy Act” has gone a long way in reducing the maternal mortality associated with unsafe and illegal abortions in India.

Abortion under certain circumstances was legalised in India in 1971 via the Bill, “Medical Termination and Pregnancy Act” which was passed by the Parliament keeping in mind the progress medical science had made in this field to make the abortions safe and its side effects not life-threatening. This has gone a long way in reducing the maternal mortality associated with unsafe and illegal abortions in India.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy or MTP is the induced termination of pregnancy or abortion by a medical professional.  The medical termination of pregnancy can only be done by law if there is:

  • A possible health risk to the physical/mental condition of the mother
  • A potential risk to the health of the growing f 
  • If a woman gets pregnant as a result of rape
  • Accidental pregnancy i.e. failure of contraceptive measures used by a married woman and/or her husband

While the abortion laws differ from country to country, in India, it can be performed until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

  • A pregnant woman can opt for termination of pregnancy only after a treating registered medical practitioner is of the opinion that it is necessary to terminate the pregnancy of the patient, as the patient’s history and clinical condition satisfy the prerequisite conditions laid down by Medical Termination and Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP) for medical termination of pregnancy. 
  • Abortion (MTP) on-demand is not currently available in India as per the MTP Act, 1971
  • For pregnancies less than 12 weeks, the opinion of a single registered medical practitioner is necessary but for pregnancies, more than 12 weeks up to 20 weeks opinion of two registered medical practitioners is necessary to decide about MTP
  •  In a few exceptional cases, the court may allow a termination post 20 weeks once the mother presents her case in the court of law and seek special permission for the termination.

Who can conduct MTP?

To be qualified to perform MTP under the MTP Act, a registered medical practitioner shall have one or more of the following experience or training in gynaecology and obstetrics, namely:

  • In the case of a medical practitioner who was registered in a State Medical Register immediately before the commencement of the Act, experience in the practice of gynaecology and obstetrics for a period of not less than three years
  • In the case of a medical practitioner who was registered in a State Medical Register on or after the date of the commencement:
    • if he has completed six months of house surgency in gynaecology and obstetrics; or
    • where he has not done any such house surgery, if he had experienced at any hospital for a period of not less than one year in the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology; or
    • if he has assisted a registered medical practitioner in the performance of twenty-five cases of medical termination of pregnancy in a hospital established or maintained, or a training institute approved for this purpose, by the Government;
  • In the case of a medical practitioner who has been registered in a State Medical Register and who holds a postgraduate degree or diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics, the experience or training gained during the course of such degree or diploma.

Conclusion

MTP is a reproductive right of a woman and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 aims to provide and expand access of women to have a safe and legal abortion at a health center and provide these services on therapeutic, humanitarian, and social grounds. 

Special Thanks to Dr. Santosh Jaybhave (MBBS, DGO, FCPS, FICOG ) for the expert advice.

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