Abortion amendment: Mumbai doctor has reason to celebrate

Victory at last for Dr. Nikhil Datar.

Victory at last for Dr. Nikhil Datar.  

For over a decade, Dr. Nikhil Datar has been fighting for raising the upper limit

A Mumbai-based gynaecologist will cherish the Union Cabinet approval to raise the upper limit for abortions to 24 weeks from the current 20 weeks. Dr. Nikhil Datar has been fighting for this for over a decade.

In 2008, Dr. Datar 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 thereafter filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court demanding that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act be amended.

The highlights of the amendments approved on Wednesday include enhanced upper gestation limit for aborting pregnancies to 24 weeks for special categories of women, and no upper gestational limit for terminating pregnancies with substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the medical board. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare believes this is a step towards safety and well-being of women and promoting safe abortions.

“The 20-week deadline caused a phobia which often led to abortions on suspicion of anomalies. The Cabinet’s decision will not only reduce unsafe abortions but it will also save many normal foetuses from being aborted on such suspicion,” said Dr. Datar, who has been receiving congratulatory messages since the news appeared on social media on Wednesday.

According to Dr. Datar, most foetal abnormalities are diagnosed before 20 weeks but abnormalities in the heart, brain and genetic abnormalities get detected only after 20 weeks.

“Sometimes, a suspicion of abnormality is raised before 20 weeks but till the time it is confirmed with additional investigations, the pregnancy crosses the 20-week cut-off. This fear of abnormality getting detected post 20 weeks has pushed women to take hasty and ill-informed decisions. In the bargain, there is a chance of losing normal foetuses too,” said Dr. Datar.

“The extension will particularly help women from low socio-economic strata who cannot access healthcare services in a specific time frame and end up in a Catch-22 situation when there is a seriously malformed foetus that is past 20 weeks,” he said.

Dr. Datar has been involved in more than 120 abortion petitions filed in various courts since 2008. “The Cabinet’s decision is a well-informed one and it is a big victory for the movement of women’s rights and empowerment,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 6:43:45 PM |

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