Difference with previous such cases
This case is different from the ones that have preceded it. The same Bench had relaxed the 20-week cap to permit another woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy. The foetus in that case was diagnosed with anencephaly — a congenital defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. The court had said abortion was necessary to preserve the woman’s life.
In the case of the foetus with Down’s Syndrome, the court said the foetus posed no danger to the woman’s life.
Anomalies of the existing law: Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971
1. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 places a 20-week ceiling on termination of pregnancy.
2. Even pregnant rape victims cannot abort after 20 weeks, compelling them to move court.
3. Legal experts have argued that determination of foetal abnormality is possible in most cases after the 20th week of gestational age.
New bill proposed: Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014
Had the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 been implemented as law, this case would not have come to court at all. Some of the provisions of the bill are:
1. The Bill amends Section 3 of the principle Act of 1971 to provide that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities as may be prescribed”.
2. Besides increasing the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the draft Bill allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider.