Mumbai sees rise in number of women challenging the 20-week abortion deadline
The growing awareness of finding recourse in courts could be one reason behind more women seeking help, said Dr Nikhil DatarUpdated: Apr 20, 2018 00:48 IST
There has been a rise in the number of cases where pregnant women who have crossed the 20-week legal abortion deadline have sought judicial help, said doctors.
The growing awareness of finding recourse in courts could be one reason behind more women seeking help, said Dr Nikhil Datar, city-based gynaecologist who has provided legal aid to 30 women seeking an abortion after the legal deadline.
In the last six days, the Bombay High Court allowed abortion in two cases – a 14-year-old rape survivor from Kalayan and a 26-week pregnant woman in their late twenties from the city’s western suburbs. The procedure for medical termination of pregnancy in both the cases was carried out at Sir JJ Hospital, Byculla, this week.
In case of the rape survivor, the child was born prematurely after doctors induced the process of medical termination of pregnancy. The infant died two days later in the intensive care unit.
“The girl had gone to Uttar Pradesh with a man, after which the parents filed a missing complaint. A non-governmental organisation traced her and got her back and found out she was pregnant,” said a doctor from the hospital who examined the minor. The doctor added that the newborn weighed 600 grams after delivery but died due to respiratory distress syndrome.
In the woman’s case, the foetus was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Achondroplasia that results in dwarfism.”The woman was discharged and is doing well,” a doctor said.
Dr Ashok Anand, head of gynaecology, JJ Hospital, said the numbers of cases where they have been directed by the court to abort a foetus have gone up in the last three months. “We now get one such case, every 15 to 20 days. Doctors are guiding patients to the courts in cases where the foetus is diagnosed with anomalies after 20 weeks,” Dr Anand said.
Meanwhile, the average time for these cases, from the time of filing the petition to getting a verdict, has reduced to seven days after the high court has started hearing the cases, making the wait time less traumatic for the petitioners, said lawyers.
Sneha Mukherjee, advocate, who represented 15 pregnant women who had crossed the abortion deadline, said, “The Supreme Court in October 2017 had said that petitioners can approach their respective high courts and do not necessarily have to approach the Supreme Court for these matters.” She added that when the cases were heard in the SC, it took almost a month to get a verdict.
Dr Datar, however, questioned about cases where women don’t have access to legal help. “We are helping women with any fees, but when women from rural parts, they want to go back as early as possible as they fear loss of pay. Also, not all of them can afford a lawyer’s fee. What about them?”