SC allows rape survivor to abort 24-week foetus

SC allows rape survivor to abort 24-week foetus

SC allows rape survivor to abort 24-week foetus

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed a rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy beyond the 20-week bar mandated by the law.

It noted that the woman’s life was in danger due to multiple congenital anomalies in the foetus. A bench of Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra granted the benefit of Section 5 in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which allowed abortion even after 24 weeks if there is a grave threat to the mother’s life.

Relaxing the 20-week ceiling, the court relied upon a report by the medical board comprising seven doctors of Mumbai’s KEM Hospital. The panel opined that in this case the foetus had multiple congenital anomalies, which could lead to birth defects like the baby being born without parts of the brain and the skull.

The report also said there were grave risks to the mother’s life, which could be averted by letting her abort the foetus.

In one such order, where the court gave the benefit of an exceptional provision in the law to the woman, it said it was always difficult to take a decision on the abortion of a foetus beyond 20 weeks, since medically, it has life. “It then becomes life versus life. Abuse (of the legal provision) is also a problem,” the bench said.

The court’s observation came as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the “abortion after the foetus has life” has many dimensions.

Rohatgi also pointed out, “If there is a risk to the mother’s life, then you can cross the restriction of 20 weeks. The issues involved, however, are much larger in this case. Female foeticide is one such problem.”

He concurred with the view of the medical board recommending the termination of the pregnancy.

In its order, the bench said, “The medical board has opined that continuance of pregnancy would gravely endanger the physical and mental health of the mother.

We are satisfied with the diagnosis and it is permissible to terminate the pregnancy.

We grant liberty to the petitioner if she desires to terminate her pregnancy.”

Represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, the woman, who said she was raped by her former fiance on the false promise of marriage, described the limit set in the law as unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of the right to life and equality. She claimed the doctors refused to abort her 24-week foetus citing the law.