Supreme Court yestarday ordered the Maharashtra government to set up a medical board to examine the rape victim after her extraordinary plea to abort her 24 weeks old foetus. The suggestion was put forward by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar who appeared for the centre that the board be set up to examine the rape survivor before proceeding with the matter.
Initially, Ranjit Kumar recommended a board at AIIMS, New Delhi but on account of woman’s sickness, Maharashtra government later agreed to set up medical board at Mumbai’s K.E Medical College Hospital. The woman has been asked to be present before the board at 10 AM. The report shall be placed on monday before the bench headed by Justice Kehar.
The foetus suffered from Anencephaly i. e it is without major portion of brain, scull and scalp. She had earlier requested doctors to allow her abortion but section 3 (2) (b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP), the Indian abortion law which prohibits termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks even if there was a fatal risk to the mother and the foetus paved the way.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and Satya Mitra had earlier mentioned the matter for urgent hearing, saying that in the present case, the life of the woman is in grave danger. If the woman succeeds, it kindles hope for the lakhs of women forced to give birth to abnormal or stillborn babies every year. As per a WHO estimate, Out of the 26 million births that occur in India every year, approximately 2-3 per cent foetuses have a severe congenital or chromosomal abnormality.
Human Rights Law Network said in the petition: The 20 week period may have been reasonable when the section as enacted in 1971 but has ceased to be reasonable today where technology has advanced and it is perfectly safe for a woman to abort even up to the 28th week and thereafter”.
“Determination of fetal abnormality in many cases can only be done after the 20th week and by keeping the ceiling artificially low, women who obtain reports of serious fetal abnormality after the 20th week have to suffer excruciating pain and agony on account of the deliveries that they are forced to go through. The ceiling of 20 weeks is therefore arbitrary, harsh and discriminatory and violative of right to equality and right to life of the Constitution”, they said.
By – Dhriti