The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government over a plea that challenged the validity of abortion laws in India. The apex court has given them time till Friday to respond, reported ANI.

The petition, filed by a rape survivor in the 24th week of her pregnancy, challenged Section 3(2) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which prescribes a ceiling of 20 weeks of pregnancy for an abortion. According to the petitioner, current laws deny women the right to abort in case of extraordinary medical complications. Calling the cap unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh and discriminatory, she said it violates the right to life and equality.

The court on Wednesday agreed to an urgent hearing after advocate Colin Gonsalves said the woman's life was in danger, Hindustan Times reported. The petitioner said her foetus suffers from anencephaly – a birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull – but doctors refused to abort it because of the existing law.

The plea also asked the court to issue an order to the Centre to provide necessary directions to hospitals for setting up an expert panel of doctors to assess pregnancy and offer medical termination of pregnancy at least to women and girls who are survivors of sexual violence and have crossed the 20-week mark.

Eight years ago, a similar case was brought up in the Bombay High Court. The petitioner, whose foetus had a serious heart defect, was denied the right to have an abortion.