Highlights – Recent Policy Reform

India

In March 2020, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020 was passed. The amendment bill increases the gestational limit within which a woman can obtain abortion services. Following the passing of the Bill, a pregnancy may now be terminated by a registered medical practitioner: (a) where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twenty weeks, if the treating medical practitioner is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that (i) the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or (ii) there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality.  If the pregnancy exceeds twenty weeks but does not exceed twenty-four weeks, the opinion of two medical practitioners is needed to permit a woman access to abortion in accordance with the listed grounds.

New Zealand

In March 2020, New Zealand passed the Abortion Legislation Act 2020, which reforms specific sections of the Criminal Code and the Sterilisation and Abortion Act. The changes decriminalise abortion completely. There are now no legal restrictions on abortion up to 20 weeks as abortion services form part of medically required health service provision and are regulated as such. After 20 weeks, a health practitioner can provide abortion services if it is considered clinically appropriate in the circumstances; after consulting with one other practitioner; and having regard to all relevant legal, professional, and ethical standards to which the qualified health practitioner is subject, as well as the woman’s: physical health and mental health, and overall well-being, and the gestational age of the foetus.

North Macedonia

In May 2019, the new Northern Macedonian Law on the Termination of Pregnancy came into effect. The new law increases the gestational limit for women to be able to access abortion on request from 10 weeks to 12 weeks.  It also removes the obligation for judicial authorisation in the case of rape, there is no longer a legal requirement for compulsory counselling, and the law no longer requires a one year spacing between abortions. Further, the new law permits access to abortion without the obligatory waiting period required under the previous law.

Oaxaca

In October 2019, the Government of the State of Oaxaca issued Decree Number 806. The Decree changes the definition of abortion to be “termination of pregnancy after the twelfth week of gestation.” While abortion is penalized in certain circumstances, termination of a pregnancy of less than 13 weeks of gestational age now falls outside the definition of abortion and is therefore not subject to criminal sanctions. Further, rape victims no longer have to have a formal report filed to access abortion services, and only the opinion of the treating doctor is needed to carry out an abortion in cases of health or life risk.