In a landmark judgment by the Supreme court, a rape survivor was allowed to abort her 24-week foetus. Here’s more about the abortion laws.
The petitioner from Mumbai had challenged Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971. As per the provisions of the Act, an abortion is allowed only if the pregnancy is within 20 weeks and carried out on the advice of at least two registered medical practitioners.
It should also be certified by the medical practitioners that the pregnant woman is under risk for grave injury to her physical and mental health or that the child would be at risk of being born with severe mental or physical handicap.
However a reference was made to Section 5 of the same Act, which overrides Section 3 of the Act. As per Section 5 of the Act, none of the restrictions mentioned in Section 3 would apply if termination of pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.
Medical reports suggest that the foetus had been suffering from severe anomalies. It is also pertinent to note that several foetus abnormalities are detected later into the pregnancy, usually after 20 weeks posing a challenge to the validity of the arbitrary limit of 20 weeks. The petitioner had challenged this limit of 20 weeks.
India is among the 13 countries which grants wider exceptions on permitted abortion based on factors such as socioeconomic conditions or age of the woman. Abortion in India is legal only upto twenty weeks of pregnancy however if the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the woman or child, this rule may not be applied.
In a country where female foeticide is prevalent and sex ratio is shameful, it is not a surprising that stringent laws are required to ensure a foetus’s right to live. But when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger, then it is essentially a debate of life versus life.
The petitioner in this case was a rape victim and this abortion would have been necessary keeping in mind her mental and emotional state, and also because the foetus was suffering from anomalies.
This case raises numerous questions – Can an adult woman have the right to decide for herself as long as the abortion does not pose a risk to her life?
It is her body, so can the choice be hers? Does it matter if the child was not conceived out of rape or did not suffer with foetal abnormalities? Does a woman’s right to her body become any less?
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