SC will hear plea challenging validity of Indian abortion laws

21 Jul 2016 | Written by Mansi Motwani; Edited by NewsBytes Desk

On 20th July, 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea filed by a woman in her 24th week of pregnancy.

The woman, seeking permission to abort her child, challenges the constitutional validity of abortion laws in India.

The petition filed by her challenges the constitutional validity of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and demands it to be dismissed.

In context: Abortion in India

Before 1971Abortion Laws during the British Raj

The Indian Penal Code, laid down in 1860 in accordance with the coexisting British law, deemed abortion illegal.

The penalty for abortion practitioners was jail term for 3 years, or fine, or both; penalty for a woman seeking abortion was jail term for 7 years, or fine, or both.

Abortion induced to save the woman's life was the only exception to this law.

MTPMedical Termination of Pregnancy

Abortion Laws in India fall under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, enacted by the Indian Parliament in the year 1971.

The law has been through amendments twice, once in 1975 and then in 2002.

The aim was to reduce the number of illegal abortions sometimes resulting in maternal mortality and morbidity.

MTP should be performed in a place recognized by government authorities.

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Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act

ConditionsSection 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act

According to Section 3 of the MTP, pregnancy can be terminated when a danger exists to the life/physical or mental health of the mother.

On the basis of humanitarian grounds, pregnancy which is caused by rape is permitted to be terminated.

If the foetus shows possibilities of being a victim to deformities or diseases, pregnancy can be terminated.

Women's Rights

Conditions laid down by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, make women's rights dependent on medical practitioners to determine whether a woman can go through with abortion. Situations like emotional, mental and financial readiness of the to-be mother are not taken into account.

21 Jul 2016SC will hear plea challenging validity of Indian abortion laws

Permission for MTP

As per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, aborting a child is permitted upto 20 weeks of gestation and not after that. The woman who filed the petition is in her 24th week of pregnancy; her medical reports also confirmed abnormalities in her foetus.
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StatisticsNumbers related to abortion in India

According to estimates and calculations by Ipas, an international NGO working to increase access to safe abortion practices, unsafe abortions kill a woman every two hours in India.

56% of 6.4 million abortions conducted in India in 2007 were unsafe.

According to Census 2011, abortions taking place in recognized institutions varies from 32% in Chattisgarh to 73.9% in Assam.

21 Jan 2017Mumbai woman, 24-weeks pregnant, granted permission to abort

On Friday, the 24-week pregnancy of a woman from Mumbai was terminated after the apex court relaxed a 20-week ceiling on the same.

The 22-year-old was allowed to abort her child as her foetus was malformed and also posed a threat to her life.

The court order in this case came after a panel of doctors submitted a review of the woman's medical condition.

08 Feb 201723-week pregnant woman allowed to abort

On Tuesday, a 22-year-old pregnant woman was granted permission by the Supreme Court to abort her 23-week foetus as it was life-threatening.

This is the second case this year where the apex court has granted permission for the medical termination of pregnancy beyond the 20-week limit.

The bench of justices accepted the plea after their medical board favoured abortion.

28 Feb 2017SC rejects plea to abort foetus with Down Syndrome

The Supreme Court has rejected a petition that sought to allow the abortion of a 26 week old foetus that has been identified to have 'Down Syndrome'.

Aborting a 20-plus week foetus can be allowed only in cases where there is a danger to the life of the mother.

The court stated that "it's unfortunate for the mother but we can't allow an abortion."