SC notice to Centre on PIL against curbs on abortion

SC notice to Centre on PIL against curbs on abortion

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Union government on a PIL filed by three professional women who challenged the validity of various provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1972. The petitioners contended restrictions in the law affected the fundamental rights to safe abortions, health, reproductive choice and privacy of the women in the country.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta agreed that the issue was “national importance” and sought a response from the Centre to the petition filed by Swati Agrawal, Garima Sekseria and Prachi Vats.

The petitioners led by advocate Sansriti Pathak sought a direction to the Union government to take steps to provide safe abortion to all women especially those belonging to social and economically backward sections of the society.

Among others, they questioned the validity of Section 3(2)(a) of the MTP Act, which provided for a mandatory precondition of formation of opinion by a medical practitioner that continuance of pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or the child would suffer abnormalities in case of a pregnancy not exceeding twelve weeks.

“Although with the advent of science and technology abortions at later stages has also become safer but so far as first trimester is concerned there is no dispute the risks involved when pregnancy is carried to full term far outweigh the minimal and negligible risks involved when pregnancy is terminated in the first trimester. Keeping this in view the State cannot make any law restricting the right of the woman seeking abortion,” they said.

The petitioners said it was the duty of the state to safeguard the ability to take decisions – the autonomy of those decisions and not to dictate those decisions.

They also pointed out restricting the permissible length of pregnancy to 20 weeks was “excessive and harsh and has no nexus with the object of the Act" which was affording medical care to pregnant women and preventing maternal mortalities.

They also said an alternative procedure for making safe abortions accessible in a situation where the guardian refused consent or the minor could not approach the guardian due to social stigma. They also sought a direction for implementation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014 as it had proposed to do away with some of the restrictions.