Doctors in the city are disappointed that the Supreme Court’s judgment on abortion did not include a permanent mechanism for future cases in which women seek an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed a 24-weeks pregnant Dombivli resident to abort her foetus that has a rare birth defect.
Present laws, under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), do not allow abortion after 20 weeks except in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life. The draft of the new MTP Bill allows abortion up to 24 weeks, but is yet to be introduced in the parliament.
“It is not possible for all women, who have crossed the 20-week abortion deadline to approach the Supreme Court for help. It is a traumatic issue for the mother and they would not want to come out with it publically. Where do they go?” said Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, president-elect, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. “The court could have given some guidelines for future cases, as the problem is actually quite rampant,” she added.
Doctors said several problems add to the issue. “I don’t think lack of access to sonography is an issue. It is lack of awareness. An abnormality such as anencephaly, which can be detected at 16 weeks, unfortunately gets picked up later during the pregnancy or does not get detected till the baby is born,” said Dr Arun Naik,professor at LTMG hospital, Sion, gynaecology department.
He added that many patients who visit him, question the safety of sonography during pregnancy. “They don’t realise the importance of sonography. We have to counsel them.” he said.
Doctors said the present law does not have provision for cases in which unborn babies are diagnosed with cardiac problems as they can be picked up only after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “There are so many pregnancies in which cardiac conditions are picked up after 20 weeks. The court must lay out some methodology for abortion cases after 20 weeks,” said Dr Sangeeta Pikale, a Mahim based gynecologist, who was a co-petitioner in the case.