Supreme Court seeks medical advise on teenager’s plea for abortion

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought medical advice on a plea by a 14-year-old to terminate her 26-week pregnancy. The minor alleged that she had been raped by a relative.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde asked a State government hospital’s medical board to provide an answer within a week after a diagnosis of her medical condition.

The 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 the mother.

There has been a strong push against this law, which imposes severe restrictions on the reproductive choice of a woman, her personal liberty and bodily autonomy. Several affected women, even rape survivors, have approach the apex court against the 1971 law. So far, the apex court has dealt with pleas for medical termination of pregnancy on a case-to-case basis.

The Supreme Court had over three years ago, admitted a petition specifically seeking the decriminalisation of abortion.

New drafts of law have been frequently proposed in the past to amend Section 3 of the 1971 Act and remove the cap on the length of pregnancy for aborting a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities”.

In January 2020, the Union Cabinet had approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which has proposed new clauses to increase the upper gestation limit for termination of pregnancy.

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