The MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2020 passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) has indeed been a momentous victory for women and girls of India. The celebrations are incomplete without recognising the tireless efforts of Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) and all the Civil Society partners, activists and women who never stopped demanding women’s rights to safe and legal abortions.
IPPF applauds the Cabinet on this landmark decision which approved the bill allowing abortion up to 24 weeks. The Bill allows abortion up to 24 weeks of gestational age for vulnerable categories of women including rape survivors, victims of incest, pregnancies with foetal abnormalities and minors. Replacing the term’ married couple’ to woman and her partner highlights that the government is acknowledging the changing social fabric in the country. It also takes a positive step towards ensuring confidentiality of information for the woman, except to a person authorised in any law which is in force. The Bill can now be said to be truly woman-centric which recognizes and respects a woman’s autonomy, her choice and her rights.
Dr Kalpana Apte (Secretary General, Family Planning Association of India) said:
“It was a very long battle that we have fought along with other CSOs and women groups. Although, the amendments are not fully what we fought for, we are happy with many achievements. The gestation age is expanded, now unmarried women can access safe abortions and reduction in numbers of specialists required for second trimester are some of the important wins. The battle is indeed won, the fight is still on to ensure women's sexual and reproductive rights are supported and protected through enabling legislation!”
IPPF Director-General Dr Alvaro Bermejo added:
“This bill passing represents a huge shift for the rights of women in India to access safe abortion care- though there is more work to be done. This win would have not been possible without the hardwork and dedication of the Family Planning Association of India, civil society partners and activist. Let this win in India inspire other organizations and activists to continue their fight for safe and legal abortion.”
While the increase in gestational limit is only for “vulnerable categories of women”, there is a need to improve accessibility to abortion service for all women who want/need it. In addition to addressing stigma, a key requirement is to increase access to safe abortion services in India – in each and every part of the country women get high quality, dignified and stigma free abortion services, only then we can claim universal health coverage for all.