Late-term abortions: Eight medical boards will hear cases in Maharashtra soon
The boards, comprising senior medical officers who specialise in different streams, are expected to be set up in two weeksmumbai Updated: Nov 25, 2017 12:49 IST
In a reprieve for women seeking to terminate late-term pregnancies for medical reasons, the Maharashtra government proposes to establish eight divisional medical boards to scrutinise cases and determine whether such a course of action can be recommended.
Additional government pleader Asif Patel told the Bombay high court on Friday that the family welfare department had forwarded a proposal to the principal secretary, public health department. He told a division bench of justices Shantanu Kemkar and Girish Kulkarni that the boards, comprising senior medical officers specialising in different streams, are expected to be set up in two weeks.
According to the proposal, couples who wish to terminate pregnancies beyond 20 weeks — the limit set under the Medical Termination of Pregnancies (MTP) Act, 1971 — can directly approach the board, which will get the foetus medically examined and determine if medical termination of pregnancy is recommended. The high court can then pass a formal order on the basis of the board’s opinion.
Patel was responding to petition filed by a Pune couple, who sought permission to abort 28-week-old foetus on the ground that both of its kidneys were abnormal and doctors said the child would not be able to lead a normal life. The 23-year-old woman said the pregnancy posed a risk to her life too.
Their lawyer, advocate Priyal Sarda, said the foetus was examined by experts, who recommended that the pregnancy be terminated. The couple approached a gynaecologist, who refused to abort the child in view of provisions of the MTP Act.
Under section 3 of the MTP Act, a pregnancy not exceeding 12 weeks can be terminated only if a medical practitioner is of the opinion that continuing the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, grave injury to her physical or mental health or there is a substantial risk of the child being born with physical or mental abnormalities that render it seriously handicapped. A pregnancy ranging between 12 and 20 weeks can be terminated if two or more medical practitioners are of that opinion.
The court referred the woman to BJ Medical College Hospital at Pune for a detailed examination and asked the hospital to submit a report by November 28, when the petition is slated to come up for further hearing.
It expressed the need for a permanent mechanism to deal with similar cases, in view of the increasing number of couples approaching high courts seeking permission to terminate pregnancies beyond 20 weeks.
First Published: Nov 25, 2017 12:49 IST