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HRLN petition in Supreme Court challenges criminalisation of abortions after 20th week of pregnancy

(Representative image)
Date : 16/10/2010

Mrs X and Mrs Y vs Union of India & Ors challenges the constitutional validity of section 3 (2) (b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 (MTP Act).

The MTP Act bans the medical termination of a pregnancy post 20 weeks, and therefore does not adequately take into account individual circumstances that may warrant termination post 20 weeks, including where there are severe foetal abnormalities.

The criminalisation of abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy violates a woman’s Fundamental Rights to life, liberty, health, choice and to be free from discrimination and inhuman and degrading treatment. Women who only discover they are carrying a foetus with severe abnormalities after the 20th week are unable to obtain an abortion. This forces many to seek often dangerous, illegal abortions from untrained providers in desperation. In some cases, testing to determine the existence of abnormalities can extend beyond the 20th week, forcing the pregnant woman to make a difficult decision on whether to abort the pregnancy without sufficient information.

The public interest litigation prays for flexibility in implementing the MTP Act to allow medical termination for cases where the foetus presents significant abnormalities after the 20th week of pregnancy and for a declaration that the rational ceiling under section 3 is 26 weeks rather than 20 weeks.

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