INDIA – Where is the medical technology in the latest MTP Act, passed in 2021?

by Jasmine Lovely George

If you read closely the Objective of the latest Amendment to the Medical Termination Act, 2021, you would really think that this Bill had an intention of coming to terms with advancement in medical technology. But that’s not the case. In an age where people are trying to colonise Mars, how difficult would it be to make abortion lot easier and simpler for women and pregnant folks?

This latest law just made accessing abortion little more difficult. It has made a statutory body called the “Medical Board” a lot more important to women’s lives. A board that would consist of a gynaecologist, a radiologist, and a paediatrician. All specialised knowledge in the medical departments.

While technology is trying to reduce the workload of doctors, this law just made the relevance of doctors all the more important. And along with a Medical Board, the bureaucracy has set in too, which makes it tougher.

So when exactly does a Medical Board come in to women’s lives?

In the last few years a lot of women have started approaching the courts to terminate pregnancies. This indeed has increased the work load of courts. Courts have been sending them back to medical boards to determine if these women can terminate their pregnancies or not.

  • In the present Bill, it is stated that any case of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks would be transferred to a medical board.
  • In cases of fatal deformities, again a medical board would be brought in.

So yes, a medical board will have a lot of power and responsibilities in deciding about termination of pregnancies based on this law. And that might not be a good thing!

So where does the medical technology play a role in this latest bill?

In 2021, where people are able to use technology to solve most of health related issues via technology, abortion still as an issue. And the concept of abortion has a really complicated relationship with technology and law.

The current bill has reduced the word medical technology to just diagnostics machines : where doctors using the machines decide for women and pregnant people.

So what medical technology would Hidden Pockets Collective have liked to see?

As a collective which works at the intersection of technology, law and community, we would have approached the issue bit differently. Post-Covid scenario, with world moving towards technology:

  • We should aim for a world where technology which help people detect the length of pregnancy should also help them make decisions about whether to continue their pregnancy or not. Instead of having a medical board, we thought the Bill should have focused more on technological advances that helps women and pregnant people.
  • We thought the Bill would focus on how to make abortion more easy and accessible.
  • We thought the law would reflect on realities of women in accessing abortion during Covid.
  • We though the law would reflect on realities of women buying pills online.
  • We thought law would reflect on the ability of doctors to perform tele-consultations.

But everything just stopped at Medical Board. A board that would decide on behalf of medical fraternity if a women should proceed with termination of pregnancy or not.

This is where the Bill fails us. This is where the Bill fails to see the opportunity Hidden Pockets Collective had foreseen a long time back. This is where the Bill becomes a lost opportunity for all of us.

SOURCE: Hidden Pockets Collective, by Jasmine Lovely George, 26 March 2021.