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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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Children Born to Women with Hyperemesis may be at Increased Risk of Autism

This could lead to dangerous dehydration and inadequate nutrition during pregnancy

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Mothers, Morning Sickness, Pregnancy
Affected women experience intense nausea and are unable to keep down food and fluids. Pixabay

Children whose mothers had hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness, during pregnancy were 53 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, a study said.

Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in less than five per cent of pregnancies. Affected women experience intense nausea and are unable to keep down food and fluids.

This could lead to dangerous dehydration and inadequate nutrition during pregnancy.

“This study is important because it suggests that children born to women with hyperemesis may be at an increased risk of autism,” said the study’s lead author Darios Getahun, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation.

Mothers, Morning Sickness, Pregnancy
Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in less than five per cent of pregnancies. Pixabay

“Awareness of this association may create the opportunity for earlier diagnosis and intervention in children at risk of autism,” Getahun said,

For the study published in the American Journal of Perinatology, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of nearly 500,000 pregnant women and their children born between 1991-2014 in Southern California.

They compared children whose mothers had a diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy to those whose mothers did not.

The researchers found that exposure to hyperemesis gravidarum was associated with increased risk of autism when the disease was diagnosed during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, but not when it was diagnosed only in the third trimester.

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Exposure to the disease was associated with the risk of autism regardless of the severity of the mother’s hyperemesis gravidarum, the study said.

The results are consistent with the hypothesis that women experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum have a poor nutritional intake, which might, in turn lead to potential long-term neurodevelopment impairment in their children. (IANS)