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Gynaecologist, lawyer debate SC petition on extending abortion deadline

Thursday, 7 August 2014 - 7:50am IST | Agency: dna

A Mumbai-based doctor seeking the Supreme Court's intervention in extending the sanctioned time frame for an abortion from uptil 20 weeks to 28 weeks has triggered a vociferous debate. Dna spoke to a gynaecologist who is in favour of the extension, and an activist who is dead against it.

Dr Duru Shah, south Mumbai-based gynaecologist

The abortion of a baby beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy should be allowed by the government. The argument that abortion in later weeks leads to sex-selective termination of pregnancy is absurd. Reproductive organs can be seen in ultrasound tests even at 14 to 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Certain congenital deformities of the heart, brain or kidney are clearly visible only after 24 weeks of pregnancy. For example, water accumulation in the brain may not be apparent before 24 weeks.

If conducted under medical supervision, an abortion uptil 28 weeks is safe and there is no risk to the mother's life. In the UK, abortion uptil 24 weeks is allowed, while in the US it is allowed even beyond 24 weeks.

Pain fibres in the foetus are not developed until after 30 weeks. In case an abortion needs to be carried out after 30 weeks, the international ethics committee recommends numbing the foetus before aborting it so that there is no pain.

Varsha Deshpande, lawyer and activist

Abortion beyond 20 weeks should not be conducted. The doctors are petitioning the Supreme Court are doing so on faulty grounds. Even a disabled child has a right to be born and to live.

After 20 weeks, even if a premature baby is delivered, chances that it will live are more. So aborting a fully-formed foetus is problematic ethically. The more the weeks pass, it more pain is caused to the foetus. Beyond 20 weeks, abortion is deemed harmful for both mother and child.

Doctors should abide by the line towed by the government. They should look at the human face of the issue rather than advising abortions. In 1971, the Indian government legalised abortion uptil 20 weeks under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. It is a health right offered by a doctor to a patient under certain conditions where the woman is raped, or is a minor, or there is a failure of contraception, or the foetus or mother's life is at risk or is causing her mental stress. But, what may or may not cause a foetus pain, or the 'ethics,' of it all, has not been clearly listed in law.

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