Centre, Maharashtra to respond to plea challenging validity of abortion laws

New Delhi, July 22 : The Centre and the Maharashtra Government will today respond to a plea challenging the validity of India's abortion laws. The Supreme Court yesterday issued notices to both the Centre and state government on the petition filed by a woman, who is presently in the 24th week of her pregnancy. In her petition, the woman claimed that the foetus inside her has abnormalities, adding once the baby is born it will cause enormous mental distress to the mother. The petition argued by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said that the current laws don't permit an abortion after twenty weeks of 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. It has been said that out of 26 million births in India every year, approximately 2.3 percent have severe medical abnormalities. The Indian abortion laws falls under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which was enacted by the Parliament earlier in 1971 with the intention of reducing the incidents of illegal abortion and consequent maternal mortality and morbidity. The MTP Act came into effect from April 1, 1972, and was amended in 1975 and 2002 respectively. As per the law, pregnancies not exceeding 12 weeks may be terminated based on a single opinion formed in good faith. In case of pregnancies exceeding 12 weeks but less than 20 weeks, the termination needs opinion of two doctors. The MTP Act clearly states the conditions under which a pregnancy can be ended or aborted, the persons who are qualified to conduct the abortion and the place of implementation.