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Supreme Court Allows Abortion of Headless Foetus

India’s apex court on Wednesday allowed a 23-year-old Mumbai woman to abort her 24-week-old foetus as it had no skill and doctors said it would endanger her life.

Usually, abortion of foetus aged more than 20 weeks is not allowed and in this case it was over 23 weeks, making it mandatory to seek permission from the Supreme Court to terminate her pregnancy on grounds of deformed foetas.

Her doctor Dr Sangeeta Pikale wrote to the court that a serious defect anencephaly with missing parts of the brain or skull was found in the foetus which should be terminated.

In her report, Dr Pikale said: "The woman visited my clinic around two weeks ago. Weighing a little over 36kg, she came across as malnourished. She had turbulent initial weeks of pregnancy due to recurrent bouts of vomiting. Her scan reports came in, in the 21st week. We reconfirmed the fetal diagnosis by repeating some of the scans," said Pikale.

In December, the woman was examined by the medical board of KEM Hospital in Mumbai and it had informed the court that continuance of pregnancy would endanger her life and recommended a medical termination of pregnancy as per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 that provides an exception if there is a threat to the mother’s life.

In many cases foetuses with severe anomalies have a slim chance of survival and also endanger the life of mother post delivery, said gynaecologists. Dr Nikhil Datar told media that the Act needs to be amended to provide for such cases automatically instead of seeking Supreme court direction every time.

"How many more women will have to approach the court to terminate pregnancies? The Supreme Court can at least pass some guidelines till the time the Act is amended," said Datar. This is the fourth such case from Mumbai which came up before Supreme Court in the past three years.

In July 2016, the court allowed medical termination of pregnancy in a rape victim’s case.

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