A registered doctor can terminate a pregnancy that has crossed the 20-week period without permission from the court only if it poses risk to the woman's life, the Bombay High Court has ruled.
In its judgement on Wednesday, a division bench of Justices AS Oka and MS Sonak, however, said permission from either the HC or the Supreme Court will have to be sought when a pregnancy has exceeded 20 weeks and the woman feels its continuation would involve risk to her or the foetus' menta or physical health.
The bench also directed the Maharashtra government to constitute medical boards at district levels within three months to examine pregnant women, who wish to terminate their pregnancy after it has crossed the 20-week period.
Under provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, a pregnancy that has crossed the 20-week period cannot be terminated.
The bench in its order noted that there has been an increase in number of pleas in the high court by women seeking to terminate pregnancy either on grounds that the foetus developed abnormalities or because continuation of the pregnancy was causing mental or physical anguish.
The bench said high courts can permit women to undergo medical termination of their pregnancy in contingencies even though its length may have exceeded 20 weeks.
"In cases where a registered medical practitioner is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that termination of pregnancy, which has exceeded 20 weeks, is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, there is no necessity for even seeking any permission," the court said.
"Thus, if a doctor is of the opinion that if the pregnancy is not medically terminated immediately the woman may die, then it is the duty of such a doctor to undertake the termination process and the MTP Act provisions will afford immunity to such doctors," it said.
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