Rajya Sabha

March 16, 2021

Santanu Sen speaks on The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Santanu Sen speaks on The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Good Afternoon Sir,

The intent of this Bill is definitely appreciable as it recognises the right of women and it gives women the right to take their own decision regarding their reproductive health, but at the same time I would like to highlight certain important points which definitely haven’t been taken care of.

Number one. This Bill doesn’t say anything about sex workers. This is very important.

Number two. Section 5A violates confidentiality. That is very important as well.

Number three. The necessity for the approval of a medical board creates an additional barrier. We have to admit that as of now, in our country, 56 per cent of abortions are unsafe. Thus, an urgent abortion training programme must be taken up by the government.

Then, then there is a need for proper awareness. As we know, there is a false perception that simply abortion puts an end to an unwanted pregnancy. There is the stigma involved as well, which is very important to consider, and which should be removed. For this additional steps should be taken by the Honourable Minister.

I would like to say something regarding the Committee. An anaesthetist and a psychiatrist must be included in this committee because in some cases of late abortion, we have seen that we have to perform hysterectomy for which the presence of an anaesthetist is essential and for the purpose of counselling, the role of a psychiatrist is very important.

My next very important suggestion is that a fast-track court should be set up immediately. Respected Chairman Sir, suppose a minor in a small place, say, Hathras or Balrampur, becomes a victim of rape, she herself may not be able to understand that she is pregnant. It is only her mother who, after a few weeks, might be able to recognise that the victim has become pregnant. But by time, it would already have become too late. And then, if she has to wait for the decision to be given by a court, the process becomes delayed further. So there is an urgent need for the setting up of a fast-track court.

Sir, mandatory institutional delivery is very important. In my state of West Bengal, 98.5 per cent of the deliveries are institutional deliveries, which is much better than the data.

It is good to see that the time has been increased to 24 weeks. But as a radiologist, I can personally say that there are many congenital anomalies which can be detected using ultrasound within 14 to 16 weeks. So in those particular cases, there is definitely no need to wait till 24 weeks.

However, suppose a woman is from rural India and her baby’s congenital anomaly gets detected much late, then in that particular case–as, till date, the viability in our country is considered to be up to 28 weeks–my submission is that this should be allowed till 28 weeks, which is the cut-off time for viability.

It is given in the Bill that two registered medical practitioners should be there. My suggestion is that two specialised gynaecologists should be there.

Last but not the least, I would like to once again highlight the point that until and unless institutional delivery is made 100 per cent, or near about, we would not be able to decrease the rate of maternal mortality. Maternal mortality in my state of West Bengal has been reduced significantly. The same model should be followed in the rest of the country.

Once again I would like to say that I appreciate the intent of this Bill but at the same time, I would like to suggest sending this Bill to a Select Committee for further discussion with all the stakeholders in order to give it a good shape.

Thank you very much.