In a ray of hope for women wanting to abort beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy due to terminally ill foetus, the Supreme Court on Friday said the abortion law should be stretched beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A bench of Justices YV Chandrachud and SK Kaul was hearing the petition of a 33-year-old woman from Kolkata seeking permission to abort her 25-week-old foetus who is suffering from severe cardiac abnormality.
In India, Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Kolkata resident, who found out that her foetus had an abnormality in her 20th week of pregnancy, is the ninth case that Mumbai’s gynaecologist Dr Nikhil Datar has helped to reach out to the Supreme Court in last one year.
The Supreme Court has directed a medical board of seven doctors of the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata to evaluate her health and submit the report by June 29.
“It is political apathy due to which the proposed amendment to MTP act has not yet being tabled and passed in the parliament. This situation is extremely dangerous for society. It is because the amendment is still on papers that we had to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court,” said Dr Datar.
The National Commission of Women (NCW) had recommended to the union health ministry that abortions till the 24 week of pregnancy should be allowed. After which, in 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed an amendment to the present MTP act.
Welcoming SC’s observation, Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, president of the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), the umbrella body of gynaecologists in India which has 34,000 members said, “Every patient cannot approach the court of law to seek permission. Pregnancy is a very private matter. No one wants it to make it front page news and being discussed in public domain. FOGSI has a stand that we need an extension of MTP to 24 weeks. The period between 20 weeks and 22 weeks offers good opportunities to check for cardiac anomalies in foetuses through a sonography.”
She said outside metro cities, the women still do not register to hospital for delivery before 7 months of pregnancy. “The anomalies are picked up late in such cases and by the time they are referred to bigger institution, second opinion is taken, the woman crosses the 20 week deadline,” said Dr Pai.