The Supreme Court on Thursday 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.
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 butit 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.
Senior counsel Gonsalves told the court that in conformity with international laws, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Luxembourg, Nepal, Netherlands, Slovakia, South Africa, Britain, and the US have not fixed any absolute time limits in their abortion laws.
Instead, he senior counsel told the court, these countries consider the woman’s physical and mental health and doctors’ expert opinions in determining whether a medical termination of pregnancy can be performed post 20 weeks.