The Supreme Court asked Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital on Friday to set up a medical board in 24 hours and examine the feasibility of aborting a rape survivor’s 24-week-old “highly abnormal” fetus.
The court has sought the medical board’s report by Monday, when it will take a decision on the petition by the woman, who claimed to have conceived after being raped by her fiance. She has alleged he promised marriage, but deserted her.
She had told the SC that time was fast running out for her to abort the fetus, which had a slim chance of surviving the full term. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, permits abortion within 20 weeks of pregnancy, after the concurrence of two registered medical practitioners.
The woman has challenged the validity of Section 3(2) (b) of the Act, which imposes the 20-week restriction, and said she was informed about the abnormality of the fetus after the deadline had passed. Because of the law, no hospital was ready to carry out an abortion, causing her extreme mental and physical trauma, she said.
A bench of justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra was informed by solicitor general Ranjit Kumar that the Centre was of the opinion that a medical board should be constituted at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to examine the woman and take a decision on abortion.
But the woman’s counsel, Colin Gonsalves, told the court that she lived in Mumbai, and it would be very difficult for her to travel to Delhi at such short notice. He suggested that KEM Hospital would be convenient for her to report to. The bench immediately agreed and directed Maharashtra’s chief standing counsel Nishant Katneshwarkar to make the necessary arrangements at KEM Hospital on Saturday, where the woman would report at 10am.
When the bench asked KEM Hospital to submit the medical board’s report on Monday, the solicitor general suggested that, on account of the intervening Sunday, it would be better to keep the matter for hearing on Tuesday.
However, the bench said the matter required urgent attention. “Delay in this matter is not good for anyone,” it said. The court said it would examine the larger issue of the validity of Section 3(2)(b) of MTP Act later.
Identifying herself as `Miss X’ because of the social stigma attached to rape and unwed motherhood, the woman said she came from a poor background. She has filed rape charges against her fiance, who reportedly went on to marry another woman.