26 Jan 2010

No ban on anti-pregnancy pills: Supreme Court affirms

In a recent order, the Supreme Court has affirmed the decision of the Kerala High Court wherein it had brushed aside the challenge made by a PIL seeking blanket ban on anti-pregnancy pills in the country. The petition was filed by a self-styled club claiming that "its main aim and object is to protect, preserve and uphold the dignity of every human being, right from fallopian tube till natural death occurs, irrespective of consideration, such as creed, colour, language,, religion, gender, politics etc., and also prevent abortion at any stage by all means".

Seeking the ban on anti-pregnancy pills, it was argued that "availability of these types of tablets, without any restriction, would adversely affect the younger generation of the nation and in the long run, it would destroy the morality and the society will fall into anarchy". Medical literature was also relied to argue "that within 12 hours of a successful sexual intercourse by male and female, there must be a pregnancy and at the time of fertilization itself or union of the sperm and the egg, there is a beginning of human life and as such, in view of the claim of the 4th respondent that no pregnancy can take place within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, is a misleading statement and in effect it amounts to abortion, as the life is terminated prematurely."

The High Court, however, was not impressed. It set aside the challenge to the pills and dismissed the petition, a decision which was affirmed by the Supreme Court. The High Court inter alia had declared that;

At the outset, it has to be noted that the conflict between the moralists and the medical science is going on, as to when life begins in the womb, when is an embryo said to have been formed and the conflict regarding the moral aspect of abortion. In our view, we are not required to go into the morality aspect, but only consider the medical consequences of the i-pill drug, that is to say, whether it is a contraceptive tablet or it is a medicine for causing abortion.
10. As per the report of the Consortium on National Consensus for Emergency Contraception in collaboration with World Health Organization, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Indian Council of Medical Research, most of the women in India, following an accidental undesired sexual exposure and not wanting to conceive, do not even know that unwanted pregnancy can still be avoided; they just wait with anxiety, for the period to come and by the time they come to know that they are pregnant, it is too late. However, to avoid unwanted pregnancy, they resort to abortion, either with the help of Quacks or old women, who are known to be experts in causing abortion, or in some cases, abortion induced by medicines. It is also known that in this unscientific use of abortion, many women lost their lives and that is why the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 was enacted to prevent illegal prevention of pregnancy. It is also not much in dispute that for want of sufficient knowledge or awareness on the part of Indians, the population is increasing at enormous and alarming rate and because of the vast growth of population, the State Governments are not able to provide the basic requirements to all these people.
11. As such, in our view and as reported by the Consortium on National Consensus for Emergency Contraception, it is necessary to provide information to all the people as to the availability of contraceptive measures. In fact, the Government itself has come forward with Family Planning Schemes, by freely providing contraceptives, like Nirodh and also contraceptive pills at cheaper rate.
12. Keeping in view these objects and as we find that the tablet i-pill manufactured by the 4th respondent is only a contraceptive pill and does not cause abortion, the apprehension of the petitioner is misconceived. Though the individual morality concept based on religious faith may prohibit even the contraceptive measures, the courts cannot go into it. In the light of what we have observed above, since i-pill is only a contraceptive pill meant for preventing fertilization and not meant for causing abortion, we find no merit in the writ petitioner's case.
Have a look at the decision.

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