Niketa Mehta was in the 24th week of her pregnancy when a test revealed substantial abnormalities in the foetus’ heart that posed a risk to its survival. Mehta decided to abort, but found herself restrained by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, Mehta’s obstetrician sought judicial authorisation but the court refused.
This was in 2008. Nine years since, in July this year, the Supreme Court allowed a woman to abort an over-20 week foetus which had serious cardiac impairments. The courts have clearly come a long way, reflecting a broader change in society, but a legislative amendment to increase the gestation limit for abortion from 20 to 24 weeks has been hanging fire for three years. The 2014 draft bill proposes to allow abortion for up to 24 weeks’ gestation in rape cases, and to allow AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) doctors, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and nurses to conduct abortions.
The amendment also proposes to remove the gestation limit altogether in case a foetus displays specified abnormalities. This would include cases where the “abnormalities would be incompatible with life”, said Vinoj Manning, executive director of Ipas Development Foundation (IDF), a New Delhi-based organisation that provides comprehensive abortion care (CAC) services across 10 states.