HT, 22 Jul 2016, NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to examine a woman’s plea to terminate her 24-week pregnancy, which is prohibited by law, given the threat to her life. A victim of an alleged rape, the 26-year-old moved the top court seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy as her foetus suffered a birth defect that risked both their lives.
A bench headed by justice JS Khehar sought attorney general Mukul Rohatgi’s assistance and also called for Maharashtra state counsel’s presence in the matter. Noting that the woman’s life is in grave danger, the bench posted the matter for hearing on Friday.
The woman had challenged the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) that prevents abortion beyond 20 weeks, even in cases of fatal risk to the mother and foetus. The petitioner told the court that the foetus suffers from anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. In the woman’s case, the foetus has not developed an abdominal wall, due to which, the baby’s intestines are growing outside.
Section 5 of the law allows a mother to abort only after medical opinion confirms “it is necessary to save the mother’s life”. However, the legislation does not provide for any remedy in case the foetal growth is abnormal.
According to medical opinion, the woman’s foetus has abnormalities and will cause mental distress to the mother.
The woman argued that the ceiling was unconstitutional and violated her right to live, calling it unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh and discriminatory.
Arguing for the petitioner, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said the foetus had no life and would not survive once separated from the mother.
Pointing out that an amendment to the law was pending Parliament’s approval, which allowed termination of pregnancy at any point of time in case of severe foetal abnormality, he said, “If that is cleared, all the problems will be sorted.”