After proposing to increase the period for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) from 20 weeks to more than 24 weeks, the Centre has put a draft of the bill online, and invited suggestions from all “interested stakeholder and general public”.
According to the MTP Act, 1971, at present, a woman is allowed to terminate her pregnancy within a period of 20 weeks if the foetus is found to have abnormalities threatening her or the baby.
The debate on MTP came to the fore in 2008, when Dr Nikhil Datar and one of her patients, more than 20-weeks-pregnanat Niketa Mehta, petitioned in the Bombay high court to be allowed to terminate the pregnancy. Mehta’s unborn child was found to have life-threatening heart anomalies.
However, the high court denied permission and the petitioners, Datar and the Mehta couple, appealed in the Supreme Court. The case will come up for dispositon on December 8.
“I must have seen many patients who needed such a relief and that gave me the strength to pursue the matter in the Supreme Court. Many organisations, such as the national commission for women (NCW), came to our support. I think a result of all these collective efforts has led to these pioneering amendments by the government,” said Dr Datar.
The proposed amendment states a pregnancy can be aborted up to 24 weeks if there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of injury to her physical or mental health or if there is substantial risk that the child, if born, would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities. Suggestions to the draft, put up on the ministry of health and family welfare website, can be submitted by November 10.
“We were hoping the court would take a stand and impel the government to amend the law, but that the government on its own accord has proposed the amendment is dream come true,” said advocate Amit Kharkhanis, who had represented Datar and Mehta in the high court in 2008.