New Delhi: The Supreme Court today constituted a medical board of seven doctors of the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata to ascertain health of a 24-week pregnant woman wanting to undergo abortion on the grounds of foetus abnormality.
A vacation bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul directed the medical board to submit the report by June 29 after ascertaining the health of the mother and the foetus. During the hearing, the counsel for the West Bengal government said it has been decided to constitute a team of seven doctors to ascertain the medical condition.
The bench also noted a report of a doctor in which it was said that a child born with such serious abnormalities may not survive even the first surgery.
The woman and her husband have approached the apex court seeking permission to abort their 24-week foetus on the grounds that it suffers from serious abnormalities which could be fatal to the health of the mother.
The apex court had on June 21 sought responses from the Centre and the West Bengal government on the plea challenging the constitutional validity of provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and seeking constitution of a medical board to ascertain health of the mother and foetus.
It had said, “Having due regard to the urgency of the matter and since the petitioners are seeking the appointment of a panel of doctors at a government hospital in Kolkata to examine the state of health of the first petitioner as well as of the foetus, we deem it appropriate that the matter be listed on June 23, 2017.”
The petition, filed through advocate Sneha Mukherjee, had said that the woman had suffered immense mental and physical anguish after coming to know of the abnormalities in her 21st week of pregnancy.
“This petition challenges the constitutional validity of section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP) restricted to the ceiling of 20 weeks stipulated therein.
“This challenge is to the effect that the 20 weeks stipulation for a woman to avail of abortion services under section 3(2)(b) may have been reasonable when the section was 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 26th week and thereafter,” it said.
The housewife said the determination of foetal 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 foetal abnormality after the 20th week have to suffer excruciating pain and agony because of the deliveries that they are forced to go through.
“The ceiling of 20 weeks is therefore arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” she said. She had claimed that during the examination of foetus on May 25, the abnormalities were detected including, a combination of four impairments in the heart.
“It was during a foetal echocardiography conducted on the petitioner on May 25, that it was first suspected that the foetus suffered from Tetrology of Fallot, a combination of four impairments in the heart. Further, a subsequent foetal echocardiography done on May 30, confirmed the same.
“However, petitioner had crossed the 20 weeks mark and medical termination of pregnancy under the MTP Act restricts medical termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks,” her plea said, adding the denial of her right to an abortion has caused her “extreme anguish” and has “forced her to continue her pregnancy while being aware that the foetus may not survive”.