News The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a petition seeking to raise the time period for terminating a pregnancy in case of health risk to the mother or the foetus from the current cap of 20 weeks to 24-26 weeks.

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  • The petition filed by social activist and advocate Amit Sahni has contended that unmarried females and widows too should be allowed to undergo a legal abortion.

Issues with abortion act

  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 completely prohibits termination of pregnancy in case foetus is suffering from severe abnormality even after a period of 20 weeks.
    • Section 3 provides that a registered medical practitioner can terminate pregnancy of 12 weeks, while a pregnancy between 12 weeks and 20 weeks can be terminated if not less than two registered medical practitioner are of the opinion it is injurious to the health of the mother or if there is substantial risk that the child would suffer severe abnormalities.
  • However, the foetal abnormalities are detected appropriately between 18 to 20 weeks and the period of one-two weeks is too small for the would-be parents to take the difficult call on whether to keep their baby or to abort the same.
  • Even if the foetus is scanned and found positive with serious abnormalities, the woman is forced to carry a pregnancy due to bar provided under the MTP Act
    • Out of 2.7 Crore children born in India, 17 Lakhs are born with birth defects i.e. such children are suffering from foetal abnormalities, which are detected in the foetus itself.
Recently, the Calcutta High Court rejected a woman's petition to terminate her 26-week-old foetus that would be born with Down's Syndrome as it felt that the right to life of a 26-week-old foetus outweighed the mental trauma of the mother. In April 2017, the Supreme Court refused to allow a woman to abort her 27-week foetus diagnosed with polyhydramnios with Arnold Chiari malformation Type 2 severe hydrocephalus with lumbosacral meningomyelocele and spinabifida with tethered cord. In many cases, rape victims are not allowed to terminate the pregnancy if it is over 20 weeks and does not pose any risk to the life of the woman.


  • The lack of legal approval moves abortion to underground [illegal manner] and they are done in unhygienic conditions by untrained persons, thus putting thousands of women at risk
    • As per the research paper published in Lancet Global Health Medical Journal in 2017 about 1.6 Crore abortions are conducted in India and out of which 81% are conducted in unsafe manner at home or by an unregistered medical practitioner.

Global practice

  • Many European countries, including France, U.K. and Italy and neighbouring country Nepal allow abortion after 20 weeks if foetal abnormalities are discovered.
  • Twenty-three countries, including Canada, Germany and Vietnam, allow abortion at any time if the request is based on social or medical reasons

Recommendation/ committees

  • In 2014, the government invited public opinion on the Draft MTP (Amendment Bill 2014) which extended the time limit from 20 to 24 weeks, but the bill was never tabled in Parliament.
  • National Commission for Women recommending extending the time limit for abortion
Source Read More Articles: Need for Revision of Abortion Laws in India Indicators of Women’s Status in India