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Doctor petitioner seeking to liberalise Indian abortion laws makes her case against 20-week cut-off

The gynaecologist petitioner in the Nikita Mehta Bombay high court challenge, Dr Nikhil Datar, explains why abortion cut-offs should be relaxed.

scroll.in (@scroll_in) tweeted: "How many women have to suffer and go to court before we increase abortion limits?”

Indian women seeing abortions beyond 20 weeks face desperate legal struggles

By Nikhil Datar

OnMonday, the Supreme Court allowed a woman from Mumbai who is 24 weeks pregnant to have an abortion because her foetus had anancephaly – a lifethreatening condition in which the baby does not have parts of brain and skull. India’s 45-year-old law governing abortion – the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act– allows a woman to abort her foetus only upto 20 weeks of pregnancy. In July, the Supreme Court a rape victim to abort her 24-week old foetus. The Centre has put out a draft amendment in 2014 which is yet to be passed in the Parliament. Dr Nikhil Datar, medical director of Cloudnine Hospital in Mumbai and petitioner in both the Niketa Mehta case in 2008 as well as the case that was decided on Monday, spoke to Scroll.in about the need to amend the Act to increase the 20-week limit.

Ten years ago, I had a pregnant woman come to me who delayed getting her sonography, which is normally scheduled between the 18th and 19th week of pregnancy. She came to me in the 22nd week of pregnancy with a report that was devastating. The foetus had significant hydrocephalus – fluid had collected in the brain – and spina bifida with the lower part of the body paralysed. I had to explain to the patient that there was a significant chance that her baby could be born in a vegetative state or severely retarded both physically and mentally.

On hearing this, the woman wanted to terminate the pregnancy. I told her that that her pregnancy had advanced beyond 20 weeks. Although termination of pregnancy is medically easy it is illegal and criminal inIndia to terminate a foetus older than 20 weeks. I told her that I would not perform the medical termination of her pregnancy but also thatI would not come in her way if she wanted to go to another doctor. However, the woman kept asking me to perform the abortion while I kept refusing as I never wanted to be a part of illegal activity.

Keep reading at Scroll.in (14 more paragraphs) | Desktop version

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