Friday, August 01, 2008

Newstrack India: Bombay High Court Allows Abortion of 25-week old Foetus

Bombay HC allows abortion of 25-week old foetus
Mumbai, Thu, 31 Jul 2008 NI Wire

Laws are made for the welfare of a large section of the society. And, if the same law creates a certain kind of discomfort to a particular people or a section of people, some kind of leniency in a particular case becomes imperative. Mind it! Leniency is made in an extreme stage to an exceptional case, but the same law remains applicable to others in the existing form.

The Bombay High Court met with such leniency when a couple from Bhayander, Mumbai was allowed to go for abortions even after surpassing 20th week of pregnancy. The Court has directed the doctors to examine the 25-week pregnant woman and admit her for abortion. The bench sought the reference of Article 21 of the Constitution which ensures fundamental right of life.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act-applicable to whole of India except to the Jammu and Kashmir- was enacted in 1971 to prevent female foeticide. The Act prohibits abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is also the time to determine the sex of a child in foetus. Any couple found guilty in practising illegal abortions could be sent to jail for a period of two to seven years.

In this particular case, a pregnant petitioner when found during routine diagnosis in her 24th week that her unborn child was suffering from a congenital heart block, resorted to go for abortions. But, doctors denied as it was against the law. However, a paediatrician said, the baby would need the placement of a peacemaker immediately after being born.

Normally a peacemaker has four to five years of life. This way, the child would have to go for five peacemaker replacement surgeries throughout life. Doctors also said that even surgery is not the guarantee of a normal life. They also expressed fear of a possible intra-uterine death of the foetus and if survives, continuous ailment would also compromise the life of the child.

The pregnant mother and petitioner in her plea said that she “does not want to have a compromised quality of life for her own child and can not afford the expensive treatment, which may or may not give results.”

Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynaecologist and also a petitioner in the same case, informed the court that many women come across such a situation. Due to a stringent law, many such pregnant women go to ignorant medical practitioner for making illegal abortions.

The petitioner couple-identified in court papers as Mr X and Mrs Y-sought the help of Bombay High Court after being denied by doctors for the abortion in her 25th week pregnancy.

A division bench of Justices JN Patel and KA Tated gave this decision as the case was linked to the life of mother and baby.

The petition also sought amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to allow abortion beyond 20-weeks if the mother faced a fatal risk due to the abnormal condition of the foetus. The two-member bench constituted a committee headed by the dean of JJ Hospital to submit report in this matter by August 1, when next hearing is scheduled.

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