The panel of doctors at KEM Hospital, Parel, that evaluated the medical condition of the 24-week pregnant woman from Mumbai, has supported her petition to the Supreme Court, asking for permission to abort the foetus that has a rare birth defect.
In the previous hearing on January 11, the court had asked the panel to evaluate the woman’s medical condition and submit a report. The report was submitted to the court on Thursday evening.
On Friday, a bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice LN Rao submitted the report to solicitor general Ranjit Kumar and asked him to assist in the matter. “It (board) has supported the petitioner,” the Supreme Court told him. The court has asked him to present his views on it on January 16, the next date of hearing.
Kumar was present in the court for some other matter when the bench requested him to look into the case. The Centre’s opinion is necessary in the matter because the law does not allow abortion beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The petitioner had crossed the 20-week legal abortion deadline, when she found out that her unborn baby has anencephaly, a condition in which babies are born with parts of the brain missing. Her request for an abortion on December 20, 2016, was denied by doctors in Mumbai on the grounds that she was past the allowed time frame.
City-based doctors, who are co-petitioners in the case, are disappointed with the delay in the hearing. “It seems like there is a delay to an inevitable decision. With each day, the risk in carrying out the abortion increases as the foetus is growing,” said Dr Sangeeta Pikale, a Mahim-based gynecologist who helped the woman file the petition.
At 21 weeks, she had gone for a sonography, where she found that her unborn baby had the condition. She approached many doctors who tuned down her plea for an abortion.
Dr Nikhil Datara, medical director, Cloudnine Hospital, Malad, who is a co-petitioner in the case, said that there was not a single case in which an unborn baby with this condition survived.
“Situations like these are traumatic for the mother. Once they cross the 20-week deadline, they are left with no option but to approach the Supreme Court for permission to abort the child,” he told HT.
In 2008, Dr Datar had moved SC, seeking permission for his patient Nikita Mehta who was over 20-week pregnant, to abort her unborn baby with a cardiac anomaly. Last year, he had helped a rape survivor file a similar petition, in which the court had granted her permission to abort the foetus.
Under the present Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, any person/doctor breaching the provisions of the Act can invite imprisonment upto 7 years if abortion was carried beyond the 20 weeks ceiling.
But, there is an exception. Abortion can be allowed if there is threat to the mother’s life. Doctors are still wary of taking any independent decision on the issue forcing many women and families to approach the apex court.