A senior doctor from KEM Hospital, Parel, who was a member of the panel that heard a woman’s plea to abort her 24-week-old foetus with a severe abnormality, said the Supreme Court must lay down specific guidelines to clear the air over termination of a pregnancy beyond the permissible 20-week threshold.
“Like how we have committees for organ transplant, there should be a government appointed panel to take independent decisions on cases where parents want to abort the foetus post 20 weeks,” said the doctor, who did not wish to be named.
The debate on what should be the legal time limit for an abortion has been revived after a 23-year-old Dombivli-resident discovered that her 21-week-old foetus has anencephaly— a condition in which a child is born with parts of the brain missing. With doctors refusing to abort the foetus, as it was beyond the legal limit, she was forced to file a petition in the Supreme Court.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not allow abortion post 20 weeks.
In exceptional cases where there is an underlying risk to a mother’s life, the Act allows abortions post the 20-week deadline.
However, doctors are still wary of taking any independent decision on the issue, forcing many women and families to approach the apex court.
“It is not feasible for every woman, whose unborn child has serious birth defect and has crossed the 20-week deadline, to approach the Supreme Court for permission,” said Dr Nikhil Datar, medical director, Cloudnine Hospital who has helped four women in the past, who had crossed the 20-week abortion limit, to file petitions in the SC.