SC sparks debate again : Should the legal limit of MTP be raised to 24 weeks ?
New Delhi: The Supreme Court issued notice to the Attorney General and Maharashtra on a plea by a rape victim seeking termination of her 24-week-old pregnancy due to the abnormal growth of foetus.
A bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Arun Mishra directed the hearing on Friday after going through the doctor's report which said that stomach of the foetus was uncovered and as a result, the intestines were growing outside it.
Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves told the court that medical report says that the foetus's skull too was not fully developed, and holds chances of the survival of the foetus were from zero to a few hours.The petitioner has sought the direction of the court for the termination of her pregnancy as under Section 3(2) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the pregnancy beyond 20 weeks could not be terminated. She has also challenged the constitutional validity of the provision.
However, under Section 5 of the MTP Act, pregnancy beyond 20 weeks could be terminated only if there is a threat to the life of the mother.
It is reported that in the instant case there is no threat to the life of the mother but foetus is abnormal and the chances of its survival are remote.
The petitioner has contended that this ceiling of 20 weeks could have been justified when this law was enacted in 1971 but it does not hold ground today given the advancement in technology that allows safe termination of pregnancy even after 20 weeks right up to 26 weeks.It has further contended that the artificially fixing of upper limit of 20 weeks MTP was arbitrary as women who get the reports of serious foetal abnormality after the 20th week have to suffer excruciating pain and agony on account of the deliveries that they are forced to go through.
As per the MTP Act, abortion is legal in India only up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.If the pregnancy is between 12 and 20 weeks, two medical practitioners need to opine that continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life the pregnant woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health. The Act also says that abortion between 12 and 20 weeks could be allowed if the child were to be born with mental or physical abnormalities. Although there is a proposal pending to extend this time to 24 weeks in special circumstances, it has not been passed yet.
Medical Practitioners, on the other hand, have been demanding an increase in the legal period for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. In an earlier interview with Medical Dialogues team, Dr RN Goel explained, "There are many congenital anomalies of the fetus that become visible only in the duration of 20-24 weeks. These include many cardiac anomalies,anomalies of the brain and spine and many more. ”Doctors have pointed out, that government should amend the act to include the valid reasons for MTP after the stipulated time of 20 weeks and empower the women to make a better choice. This inturn would be ensure better quality of life for the mother to be, the unborn child as well as the practitioner acting in good faith.
However its been two years now, the amendment is yet to be tabled and passed with the parliament.