An overview of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971

Abortion is considered bad in Indian society as it is like a killing of a human being. Abortion can also occur naturally, or artificial or even accidental. Naturally, abortion can occur because of many reasons like bad health of the mother, astonishment during early pregnancy, sudden happiness or fear etc. To address the issue of abortion we should first understand when the life begins in the womb of a mother and abortion is destruction of a life after it has been conceived and before it is given birth. Many people raise different kinds of questions like legal, social, moral and medical regarding abortion. Some even question as to if a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy does she have the right to do so as it is a moral obligation of a mother to give birth to the child and also it does not permit to kill the foetus. But one exception to this is a woman’s health has to be considered where if the foetus effects the health of the mother then the woman has right to abort the foetus. Under Indian Penal Code, Section 81 states that an act will be excused which can otherwise be considered a crime if that accused person shows that the act she did was to avoid the consequence which was necessary for that determination. Law provides omission to a man when his life is in danger to inflict serious hurt on the attacker to save himself or herself but the violence or force used on the other person should not be more than needed for the act of self-defence. Even if we consider this some argue that since unborn child cannot be an attacker abortion cannot be seen as a privilege of self-defence. Aggression involves an act which is beyond a person’s control and unborn child cannot commit any aggression so the child has the right to be born and not aborted.

Under Section 312 of IPC defines offence about causing miscarriage which states that if anybody causes a woman who is carrying a child to lead to miscarriage and if it is done in some bad faith then they can be punished for a term of 3 years with fine or both. Framers of the act did not use the word abortion but rather have used it as miscarriage. Generally the word miscarriage means abortion but legally is premature removal of the conception of foetus from uterus before it is full grown.

Most of countries of the world have legalised abortion and nearly 41% of women in many countries have got the abortion request legalised. Shantilal Shah Committee had recommended to liberalise abortion laws in India to reduce maternal death relating to illegal abortion thus Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill was brought before Rajya Sabha in 1969 and thus passed in 1971 and became an Act from 1972. Preamble of the act states that pregnancy termination can be permitted in some cases but only an authorised medical practitioner who has the certificate of gynaecology and obstetrics can terminate the pregnancy and as per the rules provided by the act. Under Section 3 of the Act a medical practitioner will not be held guilty of an offence under the Act if he terminates any pregnancy as per the provisions of this Act where the length of the pregnancy is not more than 12 weeks and also if exceeds 12 weeks but not more than 20 weeks then 2 registered medical practitioners can give their opinion on termination when continuing the pregnancy will be risky to the mother or mental health or if it is caused by rape or if the couple had not used device to limit the number of children. As per the act the medical practitioner should be a person who is qualified under Section 2 of Indian Medical Council Act 1956 and whose name is registered and who has experience in the same field as prescribed by rules under the Act to terminate pregnancy. As per the State Medical Council an allopathic doctor has been authorised to do abortion but Homeopathic, Ayurvedic and Unani doctors are not qualified under the act to do abortion. When a doctor satisfies the requirements of medical council he will become eligible to perform abortions. Under this Act no pregnancy of a lady can be terminated until and unless she is 18 years of age and who is not made or lunatic and gives consent in writing to her guardian. Here consent of mother is most important even if her husband wants an abortion and the woman does not want to kill the foetus she cannot be forced to do so unless she is a minor or a lunatic person. Under Section 4 of the Act detailed description of the place of termination of the pregnancy is stated like a hospital. It should be hygienic place to perform abortion, where an operation table is provided with proper instruments needed to perform it and drugs and other necessary items for it in the place to be kept. A woman has complete right over her body and she has the right to abortion too and can decide not to do it. Most of the countries where abortion is legalised death rate of women is below 1 for 100,000 procedures. Abortion is quite a safe method if it is done by skilled doctor and who has proper facility.

Since independence Indian government has brought many changes in legislation but most of it are not implemented. Before framing of MTPA there was no legally accepted rule regarding abortion and thus illegal abortion centres were widespread which led to many death of women. As the society is changing MTP act should be judged considering the changes like people have also started to accept family planning methods and helped to safer sexual acts between a man and woman without leading to unwanted pregnancies and abortions. There are many reasons why woman nowadays terminate pregnancy and post-pose becoming a mother like exams to be attended, marriages in the family and shopping related to it, going on world tours and so cannot risk a pregnancy now and thus leading to unnecessary termination of the foetus. Although this act has helped in many ways to a lot of women in the nation yet there is a need to bring in some changes or modifications to a larger extent considering the fast changes that is happening in the lifestyles of the people. Recently, the Supreme Court delivered a remarkable judgement that permitted a rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy at 24 weeks, which is beyond the permissible 20 weeks limit prescribed under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.


  1. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  2. Download  The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971pdf
  3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: A Boon or a Bane for a Woman in India – A Critical Analysis by Pyali Chatterjee,
  4. It is Time to Overhaul India’s Restrictive Abortion Law,
  5. MTP Act: What 45-year-old abortion law says, why it must change,
  6. Right to Abortion in India – legal right to Terminate pregnancy
  7. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules,2003

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