Pregnancy termination law: HC seeks details from Centre on steps taken for uniform policy
Chandigarh The Punjab and Haryana high court has asked the Centre to detail about the steps being taken or contemplated for legal termination of the pregnancies of the women with medical advice beyond 20 weeks as legal and moral predicament of the court is being tested “yet again”.
The high court bench of justice Arun Monga while seeking response from the Centre by March 1 asked the central government counsel to apprise the court about the steps being taken or contemplated, in order to frame a uniform policy about legal termination of the pregnancies of the women, where the medical opinion is strongly in their favour.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, does not permit termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. The law allows termination of pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner, where the duration of the pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks. If the duration is up to 20 weeks, the pregnancy can be terminated on doctors’ opinion that continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or can cause grave injury to her physical or mental health. However, courts in India have been allowing termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks by invoking its powers.
“Apart from easier access to justice, such a policy shall also ensure the deserved dignity and confidentiality to the women, confronted with such legal impediments,” the bench observed, lamenting that this is not the first time when such a case has come before this court where the age of the foetus is more than 20 weeks and the doctors have opined in favour of medical termination of pregnancy. Past instances are many, perhaps becoming a routine, but only where a litigant has the means to approach this court, it said, while dealing with a pregnancy termination plea of a Chandigarh woman sought on the advice of medical practitioner. The foetus in the case in hand was of 23 weeks and five days.
“This court feels that a uniform policy is required to be formulated in order to deal with all such like cases as the one in hand. A balanced approach has to be adopted to ensure the well-being and safety of the women vis-a-vis fetal abnormalities,” the bench of justice Monga said.
During the hearing, the court was told that an amendment is underway in the law for allowing termination of certain kinds of advanced stage pregnancies, provided the medical opinion in favour thereof and a Bill has been introduced in the Parliament in March 2020, which prompted the court to ask about status of the same.