Health Care

In a Landmark Judgement, SC Allows Abortion for 24-Week Abnormal Pregnancy

In a Landmark Judgement, SC Allows Abortion for 24-Week Abnormal Pregnancy

The Supreme Court on Monday permitted a 26-year-old alleged rape victim to abort her 24-week-old foetus, following a report from a seven-member medical board stating that the foetus has congenital abnormalities and the mother's life will be in danger if the pregnancy is continued.

She was granted a termination in the 24th month as an exception to the rule.

Taking the court through various provision of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that under the law, a pregnancy can be terminated within 12 weeks and also before or upto 20 weeks with some more stringent conditions.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, Section 5 provides for abortion any time if it posed a grave danger to the mother's life.

After the ruling, her lawyer Colin Gonsalvas said: "The court was told by medical experts that there was no chance of the foetus surviving and was deformed, and the mothers life would be effected if abortion was not done". She also said that Rathod must be taught a lesson.

However, the Section 5 of the same Act holds that none of the restrictions mentioned in Section 3 would apply if "termination of pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman".

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A bench of Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra granted the benefit of Section 5 in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which allowed abortion even after 24 weeks if there is a grave threat to the mother's life.

According to the petitioner, forcing a woman to undergo an unwanted pregnancy would result in violation of her right to dignity and sexual and reproductive freedom as guaranteed under the Constitution. The issues involved, however, are much larger in this case.

A counsellor with an NGO that is helping the survivor said, "On receipt of the SC order, medical procedures have started". In this context the 20-week ceiling was unreasonable, arbitrary and violative of the right to life and equality.

He said it is mentally distressing for a woman, who is already shattered by the report of a serious anomaly in the foetus, to run from pillar to post seeking justice.

The court also directed that tissue samples of the foetus be taken if the pregnancy is terminated and directed the girl to visit AIIMS medical panel on July 27 morning.

The rape survivor had claimed that her foetus suffers from anencephaly and the doctors have refused to abort it. Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which an infant is born without parts of the brain and skull.

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