The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act,1971, was challenged afresh, when Calcutta High Court on January 29 rejected a woman’s plea to terminate her 26 week old pregnancy citing that medical reports do not suggest any threat to the the mother’s life if she continues her pregnancy. The medical reports however, claimed that foetus is suffering from Down Syndrome along with problems in the oesophagus, heart and abdomen. The reports only talks about the foetus’s conditions, ignoring altogether the mental, physical trauma which bearer is going through, and the fact that it would not be easy for parents to raise such a child with limited income resources, says the petitioner, challenging the medical reports.
This question of extending the limit of getting an abortion done, from 20 weeks to 24 weeks of pregnancy, as currently not granted by the MTP Act, has again surfaced the minds, by the aforementioned case. The Indian Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, Section-2, does not allow abortion beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy. But in certain cases the complications in the pregnancy are determined in later stages, which causes havoc for the bearer, as then the women are advised to seek legal recourse, which further delay the process and exceeds the legal limit of getting abortion done. And in such cases many women go to the quacks for terminating their pregnancies. The Sample Registration Survey 2001-2003 data shows, unsafe abortions in India contribute to 8 percent of the maternal deaths in India.
Former Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynaecology department, AIIMS, Delhi, Dr Alka Kriplani states, “The court needs to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, especially in case of malformation of the foetus. The act doesn’t allow termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks, but in special cases of foetus prognosis, the limit should be exceeded to 24-26 weeks”.
There are many countries which are found to allow abortions beyond 20 weeks. It is also one of the vital aspects of women’s health, provided that she is the one who bears the burden of unwanted pregnancy. In cases of rapes and sexual offences, if a woman gets pregnant, not only the physical but mental trauma also comes into play which causes severe health hazards later in life. Now that medical technologies are at par excellence, we should consider amendment to the Act as a holistic panacea.