A fresh case of a moral dilemma has come in front of doctors in Mumbai. A 26 weeks pregnant woman will soon be petitioning to abort her foetus owing to anencephaly. For Dr Nikhil Datar, the trail of such cases in this one year has been endless.
Anencephaly is a condition which includes absence of a major portion of brain, scalp or skull that takes place during embryonic development. “The woman met me on Tuesday and we will soon be filing a petition for aborting of the foetus,” said Mumbai’s gynaecologist Dr Nikhil Datar.
The argument about abortion is an on-going one. In June 2017, a woman from Kolkata had also filed a petition for aborting her 20 week foetus due to abnormalities. Section 3 of the Medical Termination of pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The National Commission of Women (NCW) had made a recommendation 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.
“All gynaecologists are asking for an extension of the abortion period up to 24 weeks, as it is in other countries like the US and UK. Major cardiac malformations are detected only after 24 weeks. Even otherwise, in cases such as anencephaly, the termination should be allowed at any stage because these kids may not have a life outside the womb,” said Dr Kiran Coelho, gynaecologist who is attached to Hinduja Healthcare, Khar.
Welcoming the Supreme Court’s observation, Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, president of the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), an umbrella body of gynaecologists in India which has 34,000 members had earlier said, “Every patient cannot approach the court of law to seek permission. Pregnancy is a private matter. No one wants it to make it to the front page of a newspaper and be discussed about in public domain. FOGSI has taken a stand stating that an extension of MTP to 24 weeks is needed. The period between 20 weeks and 22 weeks offers good opportunities to check for cardiac anomalies in a foetus through sonography.”