July 31, 2017

SC Asks Govt To Set Up Panels To Vet Late Abortion Pleas

Supreme Court

On July 28, the Supreme Court rejected the plea of a 10-year-old rape victim to terminate her 32 weeks old pregnancy and asked the government to set up panels to evaluate requests for termination of problematic pregnancies beyond the legally permissible 20 weeks, ensuring that crucial time was not lost in approaching courts.

The apex court suggested the government could discuss with all concerned and said in the absence of a legal framework to deal with abortion requests of an emergency nature, the court of late was witnessing a spurt in petitions from women and rape survivors seeking permission to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Solictor General Ranjit Kumar assured the court that he would convey the suggestion to the Centre without delay. In some cases, the SC was unable to grant relief to women as by the time they approached the court, it was too late and risky for them to undergo abortion.

In May, the court turned down the plea of a 35-year-old destitute HIV-positive rape survivor from Patna to abort her 26-week pregnancy as doctors felt the risks were unacceptable.

On July 28, the Supreme Court dealt with two cases, the other one being from Mumbai where it gave the go-ahead for termination of pregnancy.

Finding the solicitor general present in the courtroom, Justice Khehar said that "Time is of essence in these cases. The health of the pregnant woman and fetus needs prompt medical examination. A lot of time is wasted in the aggrieved persons moving the court, which in turn directs the concerned administration to set up a medical board to examine the mother to determine the risk and feasibility of the medical termination of pregnancy."

In many cases, the women first moved high courts. "Why not set up permanent medical boards which can promptly deal with such requests without pregnant women being forced to rush to courts. You can place our suggestion before the competent authority to incorporate it in the proposed bill," the bench said. The solicitor general said that he would convey the suggestion to the government promptly.

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