Supreme Court refuses to allow woman to terminate over 32-week pregnancy
New Delhi, Jan. 31 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to allow a 26-year-old woman, who had lost her husband in October last year, to terminate her over 32-week pregnancy, saying the medical board has held that there were no abnormalities in the foetus.
A bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Prasanna Bhalachandra Varale refused to interfere with the January 23 order of the Delhi High Court recalling its earlier verdict of January 4, allowing the woman to terminate her then 29-week-old foetus.
“It’s a 32-week-foetus. How it can be terminated? Medical board has also said that it cannot be terminated. It is a matter of two weeks, then you can give it for adoption, if you want,” the bench said.
Advocate Amit Mishra, appearing for the woman, said if she is to give birth then it will be against her wish and and that she will have to bear the trauma throughout her life.
The bench added that each and every point has been considered by the high court, including the opinion of the medical board.
“We cannot go beyond the opinion of the medical board. The medical board has opined there is no abnormality and it is a normal foetus,” Justice Trivedi said, adding it has also been opined that there is no risk to even to the petitioner, if she carries on with the pregnancy.
Mishra argued that the woman is a widow and she will have to bear a life-long trauma and the court should consider her interest.
Justice Trivedi asked him, “Why should we consider only her interest?”
The bench then refused to interfere with the high court order and dismissed the plea.
On January 23, the high court recalled its earlier order allowing the woman to terminate her then 29-week-old foetus.
The high court had said that the woman then already at 32 weeks of gestation, can go to AIIMS or any other central or state government hospital for delivery, and if she is subsequently inclined to give the newborn in adoption, the Centre shall ensure that the process takes place smoothly and at the earliest.
It added that the respective government would bear all medical and incidental expenses in the process of delivery.
On January 4, the court had allowed the widow, suffering from depression, to terminate her then 29-week-old foetus as continuation of pregnancy could affect her mental health and observed that the right to reproductive choice also includes the right not to procreate.
The high court’s January 24 order had come after the Centre filed a plea seeking recall of its January 4 order allowing medical termination of the pregnancy on the woman’s petition on the grounds that the child has a fair chance of survival and the court should consider protecting the right to life of the unborn child.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where the woman was medically examined, also claimed that it was advisable that the pregnancy be continued for another two-three weeks for the betterment of the health of the mother and the child.
In its order, the high court had taken note of the opinion of AIIMS medical board which stated that the woman was suffering from depression associated with stress due to life events and not any psychotic features, and that there was no suggestion that the ongoing pregnancy or delivery would cause such a grave injury to her mental health that would necessitate termination of pregnancy.
The medical board, the high court added, had also opined that since the foetus did not show any abnormality, foeticide was neither justified nor ethical and a preterm induction of labour has a high chance of failure, leading to serious implications on her future pregnancies as well as physical and mental deficiencies in the newborn.
On January 4, the high court while allowing the medical termination of pregnancy had noted that the woman lost her husband on October 19, 2023, and came to know about her pregnancy on October 31.
It had said the woman should be permitted to terminate her pregnancy because allowing her to continue with it can impair her mental stability as she was showing suicidal tendencies.
The woman, who got married in February, 2023, lost her husband in October after which she came to her parents’ house and got to know that she was 20 weeks pregnant.
In December, last year, she decided not to continue with her pregnancy as she was suffering from extreme trauma due to the demise of her husband and approached doctors for termination.
However, since the gestation period was more than 24 weeks, the permissible limit to abort a foetus, she was not granted permission.
Thereafter, the woman approached the court seeking permission to medically terminate her pregnancy and a medical board was constituted to assess her health condition.
Rule 3(B) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Rules permits a woman to terminate her pregnancy up to 24 weeks with certain conditions.