Gynaecologists to women lawmakers: Raise voice against 20 weeks abortion ban

Yet again, a woman has knocked the door of the Supreme Court with a plea of aborting her 23-week-old foetus after diagnostic test reports revealed that she is suffering from a complex cardiac condition which cannot be treated. In India, the Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Gynaecologists say it is high time for the government to amend the 45-year-old MTP Act so that more women do not suffer.

Yet again, a woman has knocked the door of the Supreme Court with a plea of aborting her 23-week-old foetus after diagnostic test reports revealed that she is suffering from a complex cardiac condition which cannot be treated even with multiple surgeries. In India, the Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Allow abortion after 20 weeks: Gynaecologists to govt

The Kolkata resident, who found out about her foetus abnormality in her twentieth week of pregnancy, is the ninth case in which Mumbai-based gynaecologist Dr Nikhil Datar has helped the patient to approach SC in last one year. Gynaecologists say it is high time for the government to amend the 45-year-old MTP Act so that more women do not suffer.

“She was referred to me by her gynaecologist. We then took opinion of a renowned paediatric cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty and he too opined that the unborn child has serious developmental defect in its heart and that is incompatible to life,” said Dr Datar, medical director and gynaecologist at Cloud Nine hospital. While the SC will hear the matter on Friday, the medical experts have urged the women activists and law makers to help in increasing the abortion limit from present 20 weeks to 24 weeks.

Gynaecologists to women lawmakers: Raise voice against 20-weeks abortion ban
Dr Nikhil Datar, Medical Director at Cloudnine Hospital

“It is high time that the 20 week MTP deadline is extended to 24 weeks in India. We have observed that it is generally underprivileged woman who are bearing the brunt of the 20 week deadline. These women do not register with any hospital before seven months. Many hide their pregnancy till they complete 1st trimester,” said Dr Aparna Hegde, uro-gynaecologist and founder of NGO Armman.

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 department proposed amendment to the present MTP act.

“If a mother is approaching the court to seek permission to abort the baby, then circumstances should be taken into consideration. It may seem wrong through human rights perspective, but ultimately that mother will have to raise that child. So law needs to be amended provided that we put mechanism in place that there will be no sex determination. I am going to raise this issue before CM before assembly session,” said Shaina NC, BJP Leader and social activist.

As per the draft law, for which the ministry had sought public comments in 2014, the decision to allow abortion between 20 and 24 weeks can be taken “in good faith” by a healthcare provider if, among other conditions, the pregnancy involves substantial risks to the mother or child, or if it is “alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape”.

“It’s the right of a mother. If it’s scientifically proven and medically necessary then she should be given permission,” added Yashomati Thakur, Congress MLA from Maharashtra.