SC to hear the plea of 3 women who crossed the 20-week abortion limit

In India, the Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This will be the first time that three cases which have crossed the 20-week limit will be heard on the same day. Meanwhile, on October 3, US House passed a legislation criminalising abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy

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Three women who have crossed the 20-week abortion limit, are looking forward for October 6, when the Supreme Court will hear the plea to abort their unborn child suffering from life threatening abnormalities

This will be the first time that three cases which have crossed the 20-week limit will be heard on the same day. In India, the Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

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Dr Nikhil Datar, Medical Director at Cloudnine Hospital

“All three women are from Mumbai. While two of them have foetus with life threatening brain abnormalities, one has abnormality in her kidney,” said Dr Nikhil Datar, medical director and gynaecologist at Cloudnine hospital, under whose guidance the women had filed the petition.

Dr Datar has so far helped more than 14 women approach SC with a similar plea.

“It is critical that the 20 weeks MTP deadline is increased to 24 weeks.  It is the underprivileged women who bear the most burden of the 20-week deadline. Because of lack of access to preventive care information and cultural myths, these women tend to register for pregnancy very late, often as late as the 7th month of pregnancy,” 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-weeks of pregnancy should be allowed. After which, in 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare department’s proposed amendment to the present MTP act. The proposed act that will be called- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014 proposed to increase the abortion limit from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks.

Meanwhile, on October 3, US House passed a legislation criminalising abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. While it allows exceptions in instances where the life of the mother is in danger, rape and incest, the legislation provides for criminal and civil penalties against doctors or others who perform the procedure, including up to five years in prison.

“This ban is unfortunate. There is enough evidence to suggest that increase of the deadline to 24 weeks is warranted the world over as women may not find out about the congenital abnormalities present until the 20th week if they have not undergone an anomaly scan earlier.  The precaution that of course needs to be taken is that the decision to abort is taken after due process and the abortion is done in level III centres,” said Dr. Hegde.