Chorus for extending abortion deadline grows

Chorus for extending abortion deadline grows
Highlighting the limitation of the 20-week abortion deadline again, a city doctor spoke about the plight of a jilted woman who wants to abort her 19-week foetus but cannot because of a medical condition. By the time doctors control her hyperthyroidism and make her fit enough to undergo a medical termination, the deadline would have passed.

This is the third case the state’s medical fraternity has encountered in a week’s time where the MTP deadline has come in the way of terminating a difficult pregnancy . In the two other cases, women are carrying foetuses with brain and cardiac anomalies. Incidentally, two of them are already lost to follow-ups.

Dr Nikhil Datar posted an ethical dilemma on Facebook on Monday. He cited the case of the unwed 27-year-old in the 19th week of pregnancy. “I found that she has thyrotoxicosis (hyper functioning thyroid gland) and unless that is cured, termination of pregnancy will be risky. But by the time the thyroid problem comes under control, she will cross the 20-week limit,” he wrote.

Datar told TOI that the woman is left with three options, none of which is easy or works in her favour. “She could continue the pregnancy and curse her plight; terminate the pregnancy even if poses a risk to her life; or go to the Supreme Court and take legal permission as she will have crossed the limit by then,” he said. A senior doctor from KEM Hospital said the government urgently needs to pass amendments to the MTP Act allowing women to abort in exceptional cases without approaching SC every time.

The moving story of the Diva woman who gave birth to a malformed child last week after the Supreme Court turned down her beyond-deadline abortion plea seems to have spurred discussions on the dilemma of pregnant women who discover foetal anomaly late. Dr Shantanu Abhyankar from Wai examined a woman carrying a 21-week foetus with no skull four days ago. “The foetus’s brain matter was just floating around in the fluid.” She wanted an abortion, but he had to refuse. “While modern technology allows us to detect anomalies in foetuses, certain defects, especially in the brain, can only be detected around the 20th week or later,” he said.

“I counselled her to approach Dr Datar, who has moved the Supreme Court in similar cases, but she has since stopped taking my calls. I am worried she may have opted for some unsafe abortion,” added Abhyankar. The KEM doctor too said the MTP deadline and criminalizing abortions could be pushing women to unsafe abortions. It is estimated that of the 6.5 million abortions that take place in India annually , a staggering 57% could be unsafe.

Another city doctor said two days ago, a pregnant woman sought a second opinion on the malformed heart of her foetus. “The heart was only half-formed,” he added.

Pune’s Dr Chaitanya Umarji, who specialises in foetal medicine, said every week he sees a woman seeking abortion beyond the 20-week deadline. A couple of days ago, a second-time mother sought his opinion about cardiac anomaly in her unborn child. “The foetus had complex cardiac disease which would require major surgery and had poor chances of survival,” he said.


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