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Delhi High Court Agrees to Hear Plea Seeking to Increase Prescribed Length of Pregnancy

Sahni also pleaded that unmarried women and widows are equally entitled to terminate a pregnancy under the MTP Act

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Delhi High Court. Source- Wikimedia

The Delhi High Court on Monday agreed to hear a plea seeking to increase the prescribed length of a pregnancy from a period of “20 weeks to 24 weeks”.

A division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Brijesh Sethi said it will hear the plea on Tuesday. The plea filed by social activist and lawyer Amit Sahni was mentioned before the bench on Monday.

In his plea, Sahni has sought direction to the government to replace or suitably extend the length of pregnancy from “20 weeks” by a further period of four to six weeks by bringing suitable amendments in Section 3(2)(b) of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act prohibits abortion of a foetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The petitioner said that Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act is against the right to privacy as it completely prohibits termination of pregnancy in case the fetus is suffering from severe abnormality even after a period of 20 weeks.

“There is substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped,” the plea said.

Where pregnancy is caused by rape or due to failure of a device used by a married woman or by her husband, the MTP Act is totally silent on it, the plea said adding that it makes termination of pregnancy as an offence punishable under Indian Penal Code if the same is not done in accordance with the MTP Act.

Technology, Privacy
A model wears the Owlet Band pregnancy monitor at the Owlet booth at CES International, Jan. 9, 2019, in Las Vegas. The device can track fetal heart rate, kicks and contractions. VOA

The plea said that the fetal abnormalities are detected appropriately between 18 to 20 weeks and the period of one-two weeks is too less for the would-be parents to take the difficult call on whether to keep their baby or to abort it.

“…the lack of legal approval moves abortion to the underground (illegal manner) and they are done in unhygienic conditions by untrained persons, thus putting thousands of women at risk,” read the plea.

It also demanded empowering of women with sexual rights, legal protection against sex crimes and sex choices both in their own interest and for the sake of reducing the fertility rate as a whole.

It said that abortion beyond a period of 20 weeks is permitted only if continuing the pregnancy poses a substantial risk to the woman’s life. But the law does not consider the factum of serious abnormalities suffered by the child in womb and are detected after the 20th week.

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Sahni has cited Supreme Court judgments that a woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected. He also mentioned many European countries including France, UK and Italy and even Nepal which allow abortion after 20 weeks if fetal abnormalities are discovered.

He requested the court to hold that the right to abort the pregnancy is a fundamental right of the woman’s body sovereignty and each woman has the sole right to make a decision about her body in the context of carrying on a pregnancy or to terminate the same, subject to checks as provided under the MTP Act or further checks, which may be provided.

Sahni also pleaded that unmarried women and widows are equally entitled to terminate a pregnancy under the MTP Act. (IANS)

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Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy Proved to be Harmful: Study

Here's why women should avoid drinking during pregnancy

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Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect one's child's cognitive abilities later in life, including their education. Pixabay

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and poor cognitive function, according to a new health news and research.

For the findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from the University of Bristol investigated the impact alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have on a child.

The research team assessed 23 published studies on drinking during pregnancy and found evidence that consuming alcohol could lead to lower birth weight and poorer cognitive functioning.

“The body of evidence for the harm that alcohol can do to children before they are born is growing, and our review is the first to look at the full range of studies on the issue,” said study lead author Luisa Zuccolo from in the UK.

Pregnancy alcohol
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and poor cognitive function. Pixabay

“Our work confirms the current scientific consensus: that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect one’s child’s cognitive abilities later in life, including their education. It might also lead to lower birth weight,” Zuccolo added.

To study the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, the researchers funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) combined results from very different study designs for the first time.

Methods included traditional studies such as randomised controlled trials, alongside alternative strategies such as comparing children in the same families whose mothers cut down or increased their alcohol use between pregnancies, and a genetic marker-based approach, ‘Mendelian randomisation’.

Previously, research on this topic has been through ‘observational’ studies, where participants are already exposed to a risk factor and researchers do not try to change who is or isn’t exposed.

All the studies, included in the review, tried to compare with like groups of people, who were only different in terms of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.

This is as close as it gets to what would be achieved in an experiment, the researchers said.

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While the review was comprehensive it was limited in its ability to establish how much alcohol leads to these negative outcomes.

However, the researchers concluded that women should continue to be advised to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. (IANS)