Must allow abortion of foetuses with severe abnormalities even after 20 weeks: SC
A bench of Justices YV Chandrachud and SK Kaul said this while considering a woman’s petition that sought permission to abort her 25-week foetus because it suffered from cardiac issues.india Updated: Jun 23, 2017 18:52 IST
The Supreme Court wants to “stretch” the law on abortion, allowing the termination of pregnancy even after 20 weeks if the foetus suffers from severe abnormalities.
A bench of Justices YV Chandrachud and SK Kaul said this while considering a woman’s petition that sought permission to abort her 25-week foetus because it suffered from cardiac issues.
Sharmishta Chakraborty, a 33-year-old resident of Kolkata, presented before the court a medical report stating that the foetus was afflicted by a severe form of cardiac impairment – called pulmonary atresia – that could lead to permanent brain damage. After going through the document issued by paediatric pulmonologist Dr Devi Shetty, Justice YV Chandrachud said: “In situations like these, you have to look at the mother’s quality of life too. Look at the plight of the mother who will have to live in constant fear that her child going brain-dead even after a corrective surgery.”
The bench then directed that a seven-member medical board be set up to examine the pregnant woman’s physical and mental health over the next four days. The board is required to file its report by June 29, the next date of hearing in the case.
Besides seeking immediate relief, Chakraborty also challenged the 20-week ceiling that abortions are subjected to in the country. Though Indian laws do not allow medical termination of foetesus after that period, courts have taken a liberal view in this regard on several instances – especially when the pregnancy poses a danger to the life of both the mother and her offspring.
Chakraborty, in her petition, noted that of 26 million births that occur in India every year, approximately 2-3% of the foetuses have severe congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. “Many suffer intrauterine foetal death or are stillborn. While certain abnormalities can be detected before 20 weeks, others can be found only after that period. Many of these defects put the woman at risk during pregnancy and delivery,” she added.