Considering the right to preserve the life of a person is paramount, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed a 22-year-old woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy on medical ground.
It relied on the medical board’s report that gave a finding that there is a great danger to the life of the mother as the fetus is without scalp and not in a position to survive.
“Risk to mother to continue with pregnancy can gravely endanger her physical and mental health,” a division bench led by Justice SA Bobde said.
The woman, presently undergoing treatment at KEM Hospital Mumbai, was detected with the abnormality in fetus during the 21st week of gestation.
She sought the top court’s permission to terminate the pregnancy as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, does not allow a pregnant woman to go for abortion beyond 20 weeks.
After the court order, the woman’s husband told Live Law: “The mental agony which I and my wife have suffered for past few weeks due to legal huddles was tremendous. I wish the government to change the Act. The law should be people’s friendly and help a person with difficulty to reduce the agony.”
Last week, the court had asked a panel of doctors from KEM Hospital, which had earlier given its opinion in a rape survivor’s case in July, to look into the present case.
In July 2016, Supreme Court had allowed a 26-year-old alleged rape victim to abort a 24-week old foetus with severe abnormalities (despite a ban on medical termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks) as a medical board ordered by it declared that there was a danger to the mother’s life.
In November 2016, High Court of Kerala had allowed a petition seeking termination of termination of more than 20-week pregnancy of a rape victim.
In June 2016, Gujarat High Court permitted a 14-year-old rape victim to abort her 22-week-old foetus observing that the “best interests” of victim to be paramount.
An amendment drafted in 2014 to a 1971 Act sought to increase the abortion time limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. Additionally, the draft bill also recommended that termination be allowed without a time limit in cases, where doctors detect a foetal anomaly.
Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynecologist and obstetrician in Mumbai, has been voicing concern over the rising number of such cases with abnormal fetus in the past several years. He finally knocked the apex court’s door to bring amendment to the more than four decade-old law.
In 2008, he moved a writ petition raising the issue with a plea for direction to the government to amend the law permitting the pregnant woman to undergo the termination on the basis of medical report. The court is yet to take a final call on his plea.
Speaking to Live Law, Dr. Datar said: “As a doctor, I have seen four such cases in last one week. You cannot have different rules for pregnant women who have genuine medical problem. Since, there is growing number of cases, the political circle should take a quick step to address the social issue.”
Read the Order Here