Even as the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea challenging a law that prohibits termination of pregnancies after 20 weeks, a 15-year-old rape victim has moved the Delhi High Court, seeking permission to abort her 24-week-old foetus.
The bench of Justice A K Pathak directed the Delhi government to constitute a panel of three doctors to give its considered opinion on the physical and mental health of the teenager by Monday.
The court had initially directed Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) Hospital to constitute the panel, but was informed that the hospital did not have a psychiatrist. The bench is likely to direct that the case be transferred to a different hospital.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, permits a woman to terminate her pregnancy between 12 to 20 weeks, only if two registered practitioners express an unanimous opinion that continuation of pregnancy would threaten the mother’s life or that the foetus has severe abnormalities.
The Supreme Court is also hearing a plea by a woman seeking abortion into the 24th week of pregnancy. The plea before the Supreme Court has sought directions to quash Section 3 (2)(b) of the 1971 Act, which puts a ceiling of 20 weeks for an abortion.
The petition has claimed that the ceiling is unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of the right to life and equality.
The plea has also sought court directions for the Centre to provide necessary directions to hospitals — to set up an expert panel of doctors to assess the pregnancy and offer medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) — at least to those who are survivors of sexual violence and have passed the period of 20 weeks.
Last year, a teenage rape victim from Gujarat had approached the Supreme Court to seek permission to terminate her pregnancy beyond 24 weeks, and she had been allowed after a medical evaluation.