SC Allows Mumbai Woman Carrying Twins To Medically Terminate One Foetus With Down Syndrome

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The Supreme Court recently allowed a woman from Dahisar, Mumbai to selectively terminate one of her twin foetuses. Selective abortion has been allowed, even though the nurse has passed the legal time limit for abortions as mentioned in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) of 1971. According to a report by the Times of India, the nurse who is based in Mumbai is currently in the 25th week of pregnancy. One of her two foetuses is said to have Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is considered as a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21. The disorder causes a distinct facial appearance, intellectual disability and developmental delays. She and her husband are aware of the difficulties faced in raising a child with special needs – they told the Times of India.

Also Read: Is India’s Abortion Law Going To Get Better With 24 Weeks Upper Limit?

Selective termination

The couple had filed a plea in the Bombay High Court previously which was dismissed. They then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Apex Court consulted and followed upon the advice of fetal medicine specialist Dr. Purnima Satoskar, the TOI quoted. She indicated there is “no direct risk to the normal twin as circulations (of blood) of the twins are separate”.

Dr Nikhil Datar had helped the nurse with the petition of the abortion. In 2008, he was the first to approach the Bombay High Court on behalf of a woman seeking an abortion at 24 weeks on the ground of foetal anomaly. He believes heart, brain, and genetic abnormalities in foetuses are detected post 20 weeks. Dr Datar has aided in more than 150 abortion petitions filed in various courts since then. Much to his delight, the proposed amendment was adopted in the first month of 2020, The Hindu reported. 

1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

On 29 January 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the proposed amendments on the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act allowing women to seek abortions as part of reproductive rights and gender justice.

What you should know about the amendment:

  •  It extended the permissible gestation limit for particular groups of women from 20 to 24 weeks, including ‘vulnerable women,’ survivors of rape and incest, and other disadvantaged women (such as differently-abled women, minors), etc. 
  • Upper gestation cap not implemented in cases of severe fetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board.
  • Opinion required of one provider for pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation and two providers for 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  • The name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy is terminated, shall not be disclosed.
  • Contraception failure will be recognized.
  • MTP has now replaced the old provision of “only married woman or her husband” with “any woman or her partner.”

However, the amendment does not include the broader spectrum of abortions and India still considers it a legal offence under the IPC.

Also Read: A concise history of the US abortion debate

Bhavya Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.