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Q 71-A below par poverty measurement instrument misrepresents the degree of poverty. Elucidate in Indian context and suggest ways to fight the never-ending battle against poverty in the country. (250 words)

  • Paper & Topic: GS II à Issues relating to development and management of

Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

 

  • Model Answer:

 

  • Introduction:

 

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was recently passed by the Rajya Sabha in March, 2021.
  • In 2020, the lower house passed the bill. This is a significant bill that aims to improve women's reproductive rights in India.
  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 is being amended by this bill.
  • In India, this Act regulates abortions. It was revised twice, in 1975 and 2002.
  • Abortion was illegal in India prior to the passage of this law, according to Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code.

 

  • Body:

 

  • The New Bill's Proposed Features:

 

  • The bill allows abortions to be performed up to 20 weeks after a single medical practitioner's recommendation.
  • Two doctors' opinions are required to terminate pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks. Special categories of women, such as rape/incest victims, differently-abled women, and children, are granted an extension of the gestation period up to 24 weeks.
  • Abortions after 24 weeks will be decided on by a state-level Medical Board if there are significant foetal abnormalities.
  • A gynaecologist, a paediatrician, a radiologist or sonographer, and any other number of members as determined by the state government will make up the Board.
  • Abortions can only be performed by specialists who specialise in gynaecology/obstetrics.
  • The "name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed," according to the Bill, unless to a person authorised by law.
  • When abortions are requested to end pregnancies resulting from rape and the gestation period is longer than 24 weeks, the only option is to file a writ petition.

 

  • The rationale for the amendments is as follows:

 

  • The expansion is significant, according to the administration, because some women realise they require an abortion after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The foetal anomaly scan is usually performed during the 20th and 21st weeks of pregnancy.
  • If this scan is delayed and it finds a deadly anomaly in the foetus, the time limit is 20 weeks.
  • The increase in the limit would make the procedure easier for distressed pregnant women, allowing the mainstream system to care for them and provide adequate medical treatment.

 

  • Significance:

 

  • The initiative to alter the MTP Act of 1971 is a step forward towards women's liberation.
  • Abortion is regarded a crucial component of women's reproductive health, therefore it will give them more reproductive rights.
  • Unsafe abortion-related deaths and injuries are usually avoidable if services are given legally and by skilled professionals.
  • Raising the legal abortion limit for "special groups of women," such as rape and incest survivors, other vulnerable women, and children, from 20 to 24 weeks.
  • It will eliminate the upper gestational limit for abortion in cases of significant foetal abnormalities, allowing many more women to access safe and legal abortion services.
  • Allowing all women, not just married ones, to have legal abortions and eliminating the necessity for a second licenced practitioner's opinion for abortions up to 20 weeks.

 

  • The bill's flaws include:

 

  • Son meta-preference: Despite their unlawful status, the desire for a male child maintains sex determination centres in business. There are fears that a more liberal abortion law may exacerbate the situation.
  • The 'viability' of the foetus has always been a major part of the legalities surrounding abortions. The period during which a foetus is capable of existing outside the womb is referred to as viability.
  • Currently, viability is estimated to be about seven months (28 weeks), however it can happen sooner, even at 24 weeks. As a result, late pregnancy abortion may jeopardise the foetus' viability.

 

  • Deliveries made outside of a hospital:
  • Only 22% of the 15.6 million abortions are performed in medical institutions; the rest are unknown.
  • To ensure that safe abortion services are available to more women, we need significantly more providers at the lower levels of healthcare delivery.

 

  • Lack of knowledge of one's rights:
  • In November 2018, a study of 1,007 young women aged 15 to 24 years in Assam and Madhya Pradesh found that just 20% of young women are aware of current contraceptive techniques and only 22% are aware that abortion is allowed in India.
  • None of the ladies polled were aware that the legal gestation period is 20 weeks.
  • Personal choice, a sudden change in circumstances (due to split from or death of a partner), and domestic violence are all issues that the current Bill ignores.

 

  • Medical Boards:
  • The current healthcare budgetary allocation makes it both financially and practically impossible to establish a board across the country.
  • Pregnant women in rural areas of the state have difficulty accessing the board.
  • There is no time restriction for responding to inquiries.
  • Before permitting a woman to terminate her pregnancy, the board will submit her to a series of tests. This is an affront to one's right to privacy and to live in dignity.

 

  • Next Steps:

 

  • All regulations and standardised protocols in clinical practise to facilitate abortions must be followed in health care institutions across the country, according to the government.
  • Stopping short would surely render this progressive order a half-measure, because everything hinges on the delivery.
  • With an estimated 90% of women seeking abortions before 12 weeks of pregnancy, training village-level health workers (auxiliary nurse midwives) and nurses to prescribe simple abortion pills will help bring safe services to vulnerable women's doorsteps and, in the event of complications, prompt referrals.
  • The new rules that will be formulated after the modified legislation is passed will be able to solve this service gap.
  • Rather than limiting services to women out of fear of profiteering by unskilled practitioners, the government should focus on regulating the healthcare system to ensure that fundamental quality treatments, such as contraception, safe delivery, and abortion, are readily available.

 

  • Conclusion:

 

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2021 aims to increase women's access to safe and legal abortions for therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian, or societal reasons.
  • It is a step in the right direction for women's safety and well-being, and many women will benefit from it.
  • Several petitions have recently been filed in the courts asking for authority to abort babies at a gestational age beyond the current permissible limit due to foetal abnormalities or pregnancies caused by sexual assault.
  • Women who need to terminate a pregnancy will be treated with dignity, autonomy, confidentiality, and fairness as a result of the proposed increase in gestational age.
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