Women don’t have absolute right to abort: Government to SC
A pregnant woman does not have an absolute right to abort her pregnancy and the right to abortion has to be balanced against compelling state interest to protect the mother’s health and life of the unborn child, asserts the ministry of health and family welfare in an affidavit filed by it in the Supreme Court.
The affidavit, filed in response to a petition by Dr Nikhil Datar which seeks to raise the cap for terminating pregnancy from the current 20 weeks to 26 weeks and the quashing of section 5 of the Act, says an amendment in the law is in works and that it has sought “changes in section 5 MTP Act on grounds of substantial foetal abnormalities. The draft has been sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice for vetting.” Much of section 5 deals with punishment for the doctor and establishment terminating pregnancies over 20 weeks. The affidavit also says state governments and union territories have been asked to create permanent medical boards at premier medical institutions which will examine cases where there is request for termination of pregnancy beyond the legal limit of 20 weeks.
The affidavit also said unsafe abortion continues to cause 8% of maternal mortality in India and continues to be the third largest cause of maternal mortality.
In response to a similar petition filed by NGO, Life for All, the ministry said: “The state is morally and duty bound as the guardian of the citizens and has parens patriate powers to safeguard the life of the child in the womb after it has attained the stage of viability.”