Promised a world filled with family and belonging, a woman was lured and then raped by her (ex) fiance. The woman became pregnant after she was raped, and is now appealing to the court to allow the abortion of a fetus that suffers serious medical abnormalities and threatens the life of both the mother and the child.
She is challenging the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which puts a ceiling of 20 weeks for an abortion, in the name of securing and not endangering lives. The woman from Mumbai is in her 24th week of her pregnancy.
The petition argues the current laws deny women the right to abort in case of extraordinary medical complications. The constitutional validity of Section 3(2) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, prescribing a ceiling of 20 weeks has been challenged before the Supreme Court. The ceiling of twenty weeks has been termed as unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative to the Right to Life and Equality. The petition seeks that the relevant Section must be declared unconstitutional or read down.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 permits a woman to terminate her pregnancy till 20 weeks if two registered practitioners express unanimous opinion that continuation of pregnancy would threaten the mother’s life or the foetus has severe abnormalities.
She said she continued to suffer excruciating mental agony as the pregnancy resulted from rape and the fetus had serious abnormalities with slim chances of surviving the full term. Hospitals refused to terminate the pregnancy as it was beyond the legally permissible 20-week period, leading her to move the SC for hearing her grievances and providing justice.
Should there be a continuance of pregnancy despite knowing that the fetus has severe abnormalities, and indeed was a violation of her fundamental right to life? Does the Abortion law caters more to the health of a yet-to-be-born child than a mother-to-be?
Because of the legal ban on termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks, those who detected severe abnormality of the foetus after 20 weeks generally seek unsafe abortion from untrained medical personnel putting their lives at risk. Illegal abortions are the third leading cause of maternal death in India and account for 13% of maternal deaths worldwide.
The entire demand for justice has triggered a debate over the moral and ethical implication of criminalisation of abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, causing pro-choice advocates to demand that the ceiling for legal abortion be extended to 24 week point.
More than challenging the law, the calamity raises several questions- the right of a woman of her own body, and the continuous adherence of her as nothing but a ‘baby machine’.
Is the life of a woman still measured through the miracle of her body than her plight? Are women still positioned in terms of fertility control and reproductive choice? Their reproductive choice, or the lack of it, is enmeshed with that of the family and society, and in this case, of the law.
It should be the choice of women to end the life of fetus they didn’t want implanted in them in the first place, than have to live with the monstrosity growing inside them like a tumor. Women are not obliged to grow the seeds men plant just because they can’t control where they plant them.
Though, just recently the SC allowed the termination of the pregnancy in the 24th week- how many more judgements of the sort should be made so that the pleas and grievances are heard?
Would it not be better, if the courts instead of controlling the abortion, start controlling the men who heinously and without consent implant the seeds? But, who we are kidding, men will always be men, right? When we haven’t been able to control them since years, now why would we want to break the strike?
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