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Set up Medical Boards Till You Amend Abortion Law: SC to Govt

A bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud noted there were scores of petitions to allow abortion beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy is now being lined up before the apex court.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:July 28, 2017, 5:41 PM IST
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Set up Medical Boards Till You Amend Abortion Law: SC to Govt
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday urged the Central government to devise a mechanism to examine requests for abortion when continuing with pregnancy post 20 weeks may endanger life of women.

Currently, Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTPA), 1971, bars abortion after 20th week.

A bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud noted there were scores of such petitions now being lined up before the apex court.

"Why don't you consider setting up permanent medical boards in all districts across the states to examine such requests?" the bench asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar.

Kumar replied that the government was contemplating amendments in the MTPA and that one of the issues was about increasing the time limit for legal abortion.

At this, the court said that it would be appropriate for the law officer to seek instructions from authorities concerned it the government would consider having these medical boards till the time the law is amended. The SG said he would come back with instructions.

The query from the bench came as it declined a permission for aborting 32-week foetus of a 10-year-old rape survivor. The court found itself constrained in view of a report by a medical board, which opined that termination of pregnancy at this stage would not be in the interest of the girl’s life.

“It is not an early stage of pregnancy anymore. Doctors have said it is in the 32nd week now. Termination of pregnancy will pose grave danger to her life,” observed the bench. It, however, said that the girl should be extended best possible medical care by the Chandigarh government hospital where she is presently being looked after.

Alakh Alok Srivastava, the petitioner-advocate who had filed the PIL on the girl’s behalf, submitted that the apex court should ask the government to come up with an alternate mechanism to examine such patients since a lot of time if wasted by women before they come to the SC and medical boards are set up. Srivastava pointed out that the top court was dealing with such cases regularly in recent times.

Accepting his argument, the bench sought the government’s view on setting up permanent medical boards in all states.

Earlier, another SC bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, heard a similar plea of abortion by a woman, who was 22 weeks pregnant. She said doctors have opined that the child was likely to be born with severe neurological disorders, also threatening her life. The medical board, set up in this case, submitted its report before the bench saying it was safe to abort at this stage and that this would also ward off any danger to the woman’s life.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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