After the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on Monday, gynaecologists in the city welcomed the ruling. But, they said the modified draft of Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill, which allows abortion up to 26 weeks, should be introduced in the parliament soon.
On Monday, the apex court allowed a 24-year-old rape survivor to abort her 24-week-old foetus-that has a brain defect.
While current abortion laws in the country allow termination of pregnancies up to 20 weeks, the apex court’s decision was based on an evaluation report of the woman’s condition that was submitted by a team of seven experts from Mumbai’s KEM Hospital, Parel.
“The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which allows termination up to 20 weeks was passed in 1971. However, back then, doctors hardly used ultrasound to detect foetal abnormalities,” said Dr Arun Naik, professor at LTMG hospital, Sion.
According to reports, the woman had said her physical and mental health is at risk as her foetus suffers from anencephaly — a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
Dr Avinash Supe, dean of KEM Hospital, Parel, said: “The report submitted by us to the court, had mentioned that the child is not viable and the patient is psychologically depressed. It is better that the pregnancy is aborted,” he said.
While anencephaly can be detected at 16 weeks of pregnancy through an ultrasound, doctors said that many cardiac abnormalities are picked up at 22 weeks of pregnancy.
“Cardiac anomalies such as a small hole in the heart are picked up after 20 weeks. But the present laws do not allow parents to terminate pregnancy,” said Dr Ashwini Bhalerao, consultant gynaecologist, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.
She added that many people from uneducated families do not get the ultrasound tests done, which is recommended by doctors at 12 weeks and 18 weeks.
“If the patient gets an ultrasound done after 20 weeks and finds out that the foetus has abnormalities that have very poor prognosis, the parents do not have the option of considering abortion,” she said.
Dr Bipin Pandit, a medico-legal expert said this case-led judgment by the Supreme Court will set a precedent. “In future, lawyers fighting similar cases can quote this verdict to strengthen the case,” he said.