India’s upper house of Parliament increases age at which babies may be aborted to 24 weeks, no age limit on babies diagnosed with fetal anomalies

By Dave Andrusko

On Tuesday, The Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of India) voted to expand the age at which unborn babies be killed from 20 to 24 weeks.

It is unclear from various reports whether the bill must be returned for another vote to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) which  passed the bill in 2020. 

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan  tweeted following the passage of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, “The bill will protect the dignity and rights of women.” 

The bill “amends the current Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which states that abortion within 12 weeks requires the opinion of one doctor and between 12 to 20 weeks will require the opinion of two doctors,” Angana Chakrabarti reported.

“The new bill, however, amends these requirements and states that a single doctor’s opinion will be required to get an abortion within 20 weeks and two doctors will be required to give their assent for an abortion between 20 and 24 weeks for “certain categories of women”.

The bill “also removes any upper week gestational limits for women opting for abortion for foetal abnormalities diagnosed by a Medical Board.”

Another story on the expansion of the age limit and categories of women eligible for late-term abortions explained

While the previous abortion period was set at 20 weeks, the move to extend the weeks for legal abortion as well as removing the cap on abortion for any foetal abnormalities comes after several petitions filed by pregnant women in various Courts of law. Along with increasing the ambit and access of services, the government also believes that this amendment will ensure dignity, autonomy confidentiality, and justice for women who seek to terminate their pregnancy.

India already has some of the highest abortion numbers in the world. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Approximately 15.6 million unborn babies were aborted in the country in 2015.”