Cannot extend ceiling of 20 weeks for abortion, reproductive autonomy does not outweigh State's interest in protecting life of foetus, Centre tells SC

The Centre's reply came on a plea which has challenged the constitutional validity of section 3(2) (b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 by which the ceiling of 20 weeks is fixed for an abortion.

Press Trust of India September 19, 2019 18:10:05 IST
Cannot extend ceiling of 20 weeks for abortion, reproductive autonomy does not outweigh State's interest in protecting life of foetus, Centre tells SC
  • The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the right to reproductive autonomy does not outweigh the state's interest in protecting the life of a foetus and therefore the ceiling of 20 weeks for abortion cannot be extended in a blanket manner

  • The government said that an unborn child cannot protect itself from the harm designed by his/her own mother.

  • The Centre's reply came on a plea which has challenged the constitutional validity of section 3(2) (b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 by which the ceiling of 20 weeks is fixed for an abortion.

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the right to reproductive autonomy does not outweigh the state's interest in protecting the life of a foetus and therefore the ceiling of 20 weeks for abortion cannot be extended in a blanket manner.The government said that an unborn child cannot protect itself from the harm designed by his/her own mother.

The Centre's reply came on a plea which has challenged the constitutional validity of section 3(2) (b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 by which the ceiling of 20 weeks is fixed for an abortion.

Cannot extend ceiling of 20 weeks for abortion reproductive autonomy does not outweigh States interest in protecting life of foetus Centre tells SC

File image of the Supreme Court. AP

The petitioners have sought fixing of rational ceiling at 26 weeks instead of 20 weeks under the act. The petitioners have also sought quashing of a provision which restricts abortions only in case of saving the life of a pregnant woman.

The Centre said that the legislature in its wisdom incorporated strict conditions for carrying out abortions, keeping in mind that the state was morally and duty bound as the guardian of its citizens and has the power to safeguard the life of a foetus in the womb after it attains the stage of viability.

"Petitioners on their right to reproductive autonomy does not outweigh the interest of the state in protecting the life of foetus in the womb, especially from the point of viability i.e from the period of 20 weeks onwards.

"It is a settled law that personal freedom of choice of an individual cannot curtail the freedom or choice of other individuals, specially the most vulnerable and persons who are defenseless. Unborn child cannot protect itself from the harm designed by his/her very own mother," the Centre's affidavit said.

It said that several studies have repeatedly found that even in cases where serious abnormalities were detected after the twentieth week, pregnant woman who chose to carry the pregnancy to term were able to better cope with the loss, mental anguish and trauma as compared to woman who chose to terminate the pregnancy.

The government's affidavit said that India's high maternal mortality rate is on account of woman seeking unsafe abortions beyond the prescribed ceiling of 20 weeks when no foetal abnormalities are detected.

It said that ratio of foetal abnormalities detected in children is extremely rare and hence the same cannot be attributed as the reason for India high maternal mortality rate.

Updated Date:

also read

Let Supreme Court focus on constitutional matters: Here’s why National Court of Appeal is so appealing
India

Let Supreme Court focus on constitutional matters: Here’s why National Court of Appeal is so appealing

The idea of a National Court of Appeal is to bifurcate the institution of the Supreme Court into two divisions, creating a separate body to deal with the appeals from the various high courts

Supreme Court says contempt matter involving Vijay Mallya to be dealt with on 18 January
India

Supreme Court says contempt matter involving Vijay Mallya to be dealt with on 18 January

Mallya, an accused in bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, has been in the UK since March 2016

Incumbent upon judges to exercise utmost discretion in utterances in courtrooms, says President Kovind
India

Incumbent upon judges to exercise utmost discretion in utterances in courtrooms, says President Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind said that in Indian tradition, judges are imagined as a model of rectitude and detachment more akin to 'sthitpragya' (a person of steady wisdom).