SC rejects abortion plea of 10 year old cites need of Permanent Board

Not just a question of weeks

A 10-year-old rape victim has been left with no choice but to continue with her pregnancy after a medical panel informed the Supreme Court on Friday that an abortion will endanger both the girl and her 32-week-old foetus. Earlier Chandigarh HC has denied the permission for same.

Earlier SC has allowed Mumbai base women to abort a 24 week child after Medical report produced by doctors claimed that foetus has neurological disorders and can’t survive after birth.

Need for Permanent boards

SC urge the government  to consider setting up permanent medical boards across the States so that women, especially child rape victims, could receive expedient access to medical care

MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) Act

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 bars abortion if the foetus has crossed the 20-week mark. An exception to the law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for either the mother or the baby.

An arbitrary cap  The 20-week cap is somewhat arbitrary and has drawn rightful criticism. Foetal impairments often get detected at the ultrasound done between 18 to 22 weeks, when the foetus is said to have “substantially developed”.

Challenges  

  • Majority of expectant mothers still seek advice from midwives and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA). 
  • Penetration of modern technology is very low. Ultrasounds are only done when something “unusual” is suspected.

Recent Developments

  1. The government, in 2014, introduced the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill. It proposed increasing the abortion ceiling limit from 20 to 24 weeks. It introduced the concept of “substantial foetal abnormalities” — in which case the time period of pregnancy is irrelevant — and widened the scope of who could carry out the abortions by introducing the term “registered health care provider”, which included recognised practitioners of Ayurveda, Unani and homoeopathy. This bill is facing stiff opposition.
  2. The government, in 2016, launched the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan under which doctors at private and government facilities are required to provide free antenatal care on the ninth of every month. But implementation is key.

Downside to legal restrictions

  1. Legal restrictions on abortion do not result in fewer abortions nor do they result in significant increases in birth rates.
  2. Conversely, laws and policies that facilitate access to safe abortion do not increase the rate or number of abortions.Restricting legal access to abortion does not decrease the need for abortion,
  3. It is likely to increase the number of women seeking illegal and unsafe abortions, leading to increased morbidity and mortality.
  4. Legal restrictions also lead many women to seek services in other countries/states, which is costly, delays access and creates social inequities.

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