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Supreme Court notice to Centre on woman’s abortion plea

Supreme Court notice to Centre on woman’s abortion plea

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response of the Centre on a petition filed by 23-year-old Mumbai resident seeking abortion of her 24-week-old foetus that has severe birth defect.

A bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice LN Rao called upon solicitor general Ranjit Kumar — who was present in the court for some another matter — to look into the case. The Centre’s opinion is necessary in the matter as the law does not allow abortion of foetus beyond 20 weeks.

The solicitor general was handed over a report prepared by a panel of experts from KEM Hospital and told to give his views on it by January 16, the next date of hearing. “They (board) have supported the petitioner,” the bench told him.

The apex court on January 11 ordered KEM Hospital to examine the petitioner whose advocate, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, said the woman should be allowed to abort the foetus that was diagnosed with anencephaly.

The panel comprised the same experts who had in July examined a rape survivor who had moved the top court with a similar plea.

The present petitioner learnt about the deformed foetus in December last year. It was detected that the skull of the foetus, with gestational age corresponding to 21 weeks 2 days, was absent.

Her request for an abortion on December 20 was denied by her doctors in Mumbai on the grounds that she had passed the ceiling of 20 weeks. Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, any person/doctor breaching the provisions can invite imprisonment up to seven years if abortion is carried beyond the 20 weeks ceiling. However, there is an exception if there is threat to the mother’s life. Doctors are still wary of taking any independent decision on the issue forcing many women and families to approach the apex court.

In the petition, the woman has called the ceiling unreasonable because determination of foetal abnormality in many cases can only be done after the 20th week.

“The ceiling of 20 weeks is therefore arbitrary, harsh and discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 (Right to Equality) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution,” the petitioner said.