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Bombay HC to hear abortion law plea

July 30, 2008 23:02 IST
Last Updated: July 30, 2008 23:05 IST

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The Bombay High Court on August 1, will hear a petition seeking an amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act regarding allowing the termination of a pregnancy beyond 20-weeks only if the mother faces a fatal risk.
In an order passed on Tuesday, a division bench of justices J N Patel and K K Tated directed a committee of doctors to examine a 25-week pregnant woman and admit her for termination of pregnancy.
The court has sought medical reports on August 1, from the committee of doctors constituted under its direction by the dean of the state-run JJ Hospital.
The bench said that if her case is found fit for abortion, she should get admitted to a speciality hospital for the termination of her pregnancy.
On August 1, the larger issue of bringing about an amendment in the Act will be argued.
The woman, who was expecting her first child, found out only in the 24th week of her pregnancy that the foetus had a congenital heart block. Doctors told her that the child would need a pacemaker right at birth and the quality of its life would be poor.
The plaintiff's gynaecologist Nikhil Datar told the court that some ailments in the foetus are detected only between the 20th and the 24th week of pregnancy.

However, an abortion at this advanced stage is illegal, so medical practitioners refuse to abort the child. The couples then turn to quacks, which is very dangerous for the mother and the child.

In their application, Datar and the couple asked the court to direct the government to amend the MTP Act so that abortions could be legally carried out beyond the 20th week of pregnancy, in the event of the foetus being at a risk.
The court was of the view that the exclusion of the foetus' condition, while taking a call on abortion beyond 20 weeks, denied the unborn child its constitutional right to life.
Advocate Jamshed Mistry informed the court of the abortion policies in the United Kingdom in consonance with the World Health Organisation technical bulletin that advocates a three-tier system.
In the third level, beyond the 24-weeks of pregnancy, there is a provision wherein after consulting doctors and experts, and if there is a significant risk to the foetus, an abortion can be carried out.
Observing that there is a lacuna in law, the judges said, "Since India is a signatory to the International Covenant to Civil and Political Rights, 1968, with increased medical standards, it is now necessary to have such a provision in law."
The hearing in connection with the amendment will continue on Friday.

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