Hyderabad: The Supreme Court’s recent judgement has raised questions about safe abortions. Last week, three women approached the court to allow them to abort after 20 weeks, citing abnormalities in the foetuses.
The law states that pregnancy up to 20 weeks can be terminated legally. Some gynaecologists argue that abortions are safe up to 24 weeks as new technologies guarantee a greater degree of safety. There is a provision in the MTP Act to abort foetuses with abnormalities at 24 weeks and there is a body of opinion that holds rape victims should be given the same right provided their health is not seriously endangered.
Gynaecologist Vimee Bhindra says, "If an abortion is done by a qualified doctor with the right medical treatment it is safe. For young rape victims, we should remember that the girls should be able to bear the labour pain."
Abortions are often denied after 20 weeks not because it may be unsafe but because the child has reached viability. "By seven months the child can cry and has every right to survive. And therefore, the issue of child rights comes in. The mother might be young but her system is mature enough to be pregnant and therefore, many are asked to complete their term," says Dr Suma Prasad, a senior gynaecologist.
However, the need for exceptions in the law has been strongly debated by doctors. Says gynaecologist Dr Sasikala Kola, "The process of abortion is easier with new technology and drugs."
Earlier, we had to induce labour pains without drugs so it was a time consuming process. Now, it is a shorter and safer process. But beyond the 20-week period, the ethical aspect of abortion comes into play. It should be remembered that young bodies are still in the growing stage and the pelvic bones are not strong enough for a live birth." The girl's health could be affected even while in labour."