SC allows rape survivor to terminate 24-week pregnancy, but here's why it is risky!

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A late termination of pregnancy, especially at or after 24 weeks, though rare, can pose many dangers to the mother's life including heavy bleeding

In an effort to give a rape survivor the opportunity to lead a normal life, the Supreme Court allowed her to terminate her 24-week pregnancy. The verdict came soon after she appealed that her foetus had developed an unusual growth.

The court reportedly ordered Mumbai's King Edward Memorial Hospital to set up a medical board within 24 hours and examine the feasibility of aborting the 'highly abnormal' foetus.

After the hospital filed the report stating that continuation of the pregnancy posed a serious danger to the girl's life, the SC allowed its termination.

Now, this is a rare case because our laws of abortion do not allow late termination of pregnancy.

Laws on abortion

This case directly questions India's abortion law titles Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. As per this law, a pregnancy can be terminated till 20 weeks if it “is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.”

The law does not allow women to terminate a pregnancy that goes beyond 20 weeks for reasons including the viability of the foetus and the health of the mother.

For the uninitiated, here's what happens to the the foetus at 24weeks.

Foetus at 24 weeks

At 24 weeks, the baby has a 50-50 chance of survival because most of its organs are formed by this week.

  • The baby’s face is now completely formed. The ears are also in place, and he is able to pick up sounds more effectively now.
  • His eyes and eyelashes are also formed, although the eyelids are closed. He will also start REM (rapid eye movement) during this week.
  • His brain is growing rapidly and his tastebuds are fully developed.
  • By now, his lungs are developing branches and the respiratory tree.

By the end of this week, the mother is usually asked to undergo glucose tests to check for gestational diabetes and is also advised to keep herself hydrated. Basically, by the 24th week, given the viability of the foetus, medical practitioners do not allow a foetal termination.

However, if in a rare case it is terminated, it could pose serious dangers to the mother's life.

Termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks

A late termination of pregnancy, especially at or after 24 weeks, can lead to:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Damage to the cervix
  • Perforation of the uterus

However, in order to have a safe pregnancy, expecting mothers are advised to go in for routine pregnancy tests and scans. This helps to access if there is any abnormality in the growing foetus.

Read: Conceive after abortion: Dos and don'ts 

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj