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Mumbai doctor moves SC seeking to clear ambiguities in amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act

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Mumbai, May 12 (PTI) A Mumbai-based gynaecologist has moved the Supreme Court seeking clarification of certain `ambiguous’ provisions in the amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021, including those regarding unmarried women.

Dr Nikhil Datar, the petitioner, had earlier campaigned for the extension of the period during which pregnancy can be terminated legally to 24 weeks from 20 weeks, and moved the apex court on the issue.

The amended law, a notification for which was issued on October 12, 2021, prescribes seven categories that are eligible for medical termination of pregnancy till 24 weeks, he told PTI.

It includes “change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorcee)”.

“Importance has been given to the marital status in this category. But it leaves out women who are unmarried, or who are in live-in relationship or who have filed for divorce during the pregnancy,” Datar said.

“Single women are excluded as a group. What happens to cases where the status of divorce is unclear since there can be several stages such as legal separation, estrangement, filing of divorce, commencement of divorce proceedings and divorce being granted. According to different personal laws, more ambiguities in divorce are also created,” Datar said.

The petition was filed in the Supreme Court earlier this month and he hopes it would be listed for hearing soon, he added.

The new law allows medical termination of pregnancy till 24 weeks in the case of minor girls who are rape victims, but various high courts and even the Supreme Court have taken a more sympathetic view and allowed termination of pregnancy for minors up to 32 weeks, Datar pointed out.

“So this provision (of capping the period at 24 weeks) is regressive in nature,” he contended.

The amendment has created a new institution called the medical board which is supposed to examine a woman and form an opinion on the desirability of abortion when there is a substantial foetal anomaly in advanced pregnancy.

However, gynaecologist is the only member of this board who, by virtue of training, qualification and experience, can take a final decision, Datar said.

No other member of the board will be able to fulfil the criteria for Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) as defined by rules under the Act and other specialists may only be able to help the RMP (gynaecologist) to arrive at a decision, he said.

The notification also talks of FORM A for the approval of a place for termination of pregnancy under the Act.

But there is no provision for the registration or approval of place for termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks, Datar said.

“This means the termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks cannot be done at a place of choice of the woman or with a doctor she chooses. She will have to accept a government hospital facility, thus restricting her right to choose her healthcare provider,” he added. PTI PR KRK KRK

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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