'State can raise baby': Supreme Court refuses to allow woman to abort 26-wk foetus : The Tribune India

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'State can raise baby': Supreme Court refuses to allow woman to abort 26-wk foetus

'State can raise baby': Supreme Court refuses to allow woman to abort 26-wk foetus


Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, October 16

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to allow termination of the 26-week pregnancy of a married woman after a medical board of doctors at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here said neither she nor her foetus was at risk.

“The length of the pregnancy has crossed 24 weeks and it is approximately 26 weeks and five days old. The medical termination of pregnancy cannot be permitted,” ordered a three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud that had earlier said “we can’t kill the child”.

The Bench, which also included Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, directed AIIMS to provide all medical help to the woman to continue with her pregnancy till its full term. The state may take care of the child after birth, if the parents so desired, it added.

The petitioner, a married woman with two children, had sought permission to terminate her 26-week pregnancy, contending she was suffering from postpartum depression and was not in a position to raise a third child —emotionally and physically. She claimed she was not aware of the fact that she had conceived again.

However, going by the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Bench refused to exercise its powers under Article 142 “to do complete justice”, saying it should not be used in every case. The court had on October 13 sought a fresh report from AIIMS doctors as to possible foetal abnormality and impact of psychiatric drugs prescribed to treat her alleged postpartum depression on continuance of the pregnancy. In its latest report, the AIIMS medical board said though the petitioner suffered from postpartum depression, the medicines she had been taking did not have any adverse impact on her or the foetus, which had no abnormalities. However, it suggested an alternative regime of medicines for better care of the woman and foetus.

Under the Act, the upper limit for termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, special categories, including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as those differently-abled and minors.

Since the petitioner had crossed the statutory 24-week period, she had to move court for permission to terminate her pregnancy. Termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks is permitted only in exceptional cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the foetus is abnormal.

Earlier, a two-judge Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice BV Nagarathna had on October 9 allowed termination of her pregnancy. The matter came to the CJI-led three-judge Bench after Justice Kohli and Justice Nagarathna on October 11 delivered a split verdict on the Centre’s plea for recall of the October 9 order. While Justice Kohli was against termination of pregnancy, Justice Nagarathna stuck to her original decision, saying the woman had remained determined to abort it.

“Autonomy of woman must trump, but what about the unborn child, nobody is appearing for her. How do you balance out the rights of the unborn child,” the CJI had said October 12 and asked the woman to reconsider her decision.

Provide help to woman, AIIMS told

  • SC directed AIIMS to provide all medical help to woman to continue with her pregnancy till its full term. The state might take care of the child after birth, if the parents so desired, it said
  • AIIMS medical board had stated though petitioner suffered from postpartum depression, her medicines didn’t have any adverse impact on her or the foetus, which had no abnormalities

Same-sex marriage verdict today

Led by CJI DY Chandrachud, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the SC will on Tuesday pronounce its verdict on petitions seeking legal recognition to same-sex marriages in India.

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