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Plea to constitute district medical boards

Topics Covered: Issues related to women.

Plea to constitute district medical boards:


Context:

The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a plea to constitute district medical boards with expert gynaecologists and even paediatricians to help rape survivors.

  • The court also said that if a woman is raped and is pregnant, she must be told about her legal rights.

What’s the case?

The court was hearing the case of a 14-year-old rape survivor seeking an abortion.

However, following a report from a medical board, to which the top court had referred her, she withdrew her plea for termination of pregnancy.

Need for:

This case highlighted the need for setting up medical boards in every district so that rape survivors could benefit from early medical intervention and not be forced to go through more trauma.

  • There has been a strong push against the law, which imposes severe restrictions on the reproductive choice of a woman, her personal liberty and bodily autonomy.
  • Several affected women, even rape survivors, have approached the apex court against the 1971 law.
  • So far, the apex court has dealt with pleas for medical termination of pregnancy on a case-to-case basis.

What the law says?

Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 prohibits termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks.

  • An exception to the law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for the mother.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is passed by the Lok Sabha and it will be discussed in the Rajya Sabha.

  • It seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances.

Abortion vs Fundamental Right:

The “right to exercise reproductive choice is the right to choose whether to conceive and carry pregnancy to its full term or to terminate it. This choice is at the core of one’s privacy, dignity, personal autonomy, bodily integrity, self determination and right to health recognised by Article 21 of the Constitution.”

cabinet_decision

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Provisions in the new bill vs 1971 act.
  2. Time limit for abortion in India vs other countries.
  3. Contraceptive-failure clause.
  4. Constitution and composition of Medical Board.

Mains Link:

Discuss how Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 strives to provide reproductive rights to women in India.

Sources: the Hindu.