The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine the constitutional validity of sections of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, Live Law reported. It issued a notice to the Centre on a petition against the law that lays down the conditions for aborting foetuses.
The petition was filed by Swati Agarwal, Garima Sekseria and Prachi Vats. They said that the Sections 3(2) and and 5 of the law violated fundamental rights and should be declared void and unconstitutional.
Section 3(2) allows pregnancies less than 12-weeks-old to be terminated if a medical practitioner states that continuing the pregnancy would involve a risk to the woman’s life or cause grave injury to her physical or mental health, or that there is substantial risk to the child if born. For pregnancies between 12 weeks and 20 weeks long, two medical practitioners need to make the statement.
Section 5 allows the termination of pregnancy older than 20 weeks only if the woman faces immediate risk to her life.
The petitioners said the law violated women’s right to health, reproductive choice and privacy. “The provision imposed severe restriction on the exercise of the reproductive choice of the woman by providing for a precondition of an opinion by the medical practitioner about there being a risk to the life of the lady or of grave physical or mental injury or risk of serious fetal abnormalities if the pregnancy is continued,” the petition said. “The restriction puts an undue burden on the exercise of free reproductive choice and renders it meaningless,” it added.
The petition said the right to choose whether to conceive and carry a pregnancy to its full term or to terminate it was at the core of one’s privacy, dignity, personal autonomy, bodily integrity, self-determination and right to health.
“The state cannot compel a woman to continue a pregnancy against her will when continuance of pregnancy will entail physical, mental and socio-economic consequences which far outweigh the consequences that ensue as a result of termination of pregnancy,” said the plea.
Safe abortions are possible as late as nearly 26 weeks into a pregnancy and the 20-week limit is “excessive and harsh”, the plea said.