Right to Abortion Must be Balanced with Compelling State Interest to Protect Health of Mother and Foetus, Centre Tells SC

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Responding to a petition which sought to liberalize certain existing provisions regarding abortion in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, the Union government has stated that a pregnant woman does not have the absolute right to abort her pregnancy.

The petition, filed by Dr. Nikhil Datar, in 2009, had challenged provisions of the MTP Act and sought an increase in the timeline to terminate pregnancy from the current ceiling of 20 weeks to a period of 26 weeks. The petitioner sought amendments to the statute, so that a woman could abort a foetus even after a period of 20 weeks.

Substantial risk that the child could be born with deformities or abnormalities should be a ground for abortion, the petition stated.

The government also highlighted that they sought to reduce mortality rates caused by unsafe abortions. “Reducing mortality and morbidity due to pregnancy related causes is an important priority of the government”, it submitted.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench comprising of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose. While the bench did not seem inclined towards legislating on the issue of increasing the current cap for termination, it did indicate at passing guidelines regarding the same.  

Last July, the Supreme Court had issued notice on another PIL challenging the provisions of MTP Act to the extent it restricted the right of a woman to abort. That petition also highlighted that the provisions allowed abortion only for married women, resulting in discrimination against single mothers.

Source Livelaw.com