Termination of 26-week pregnancy: Supreme Court seeks another report from AIIMS; hearing on Monday : The Tribune India

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Termination of 26-week pregnancy: Supreme Court seeks another report from AIIMS; hearing on Monday

The order comes after Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati tells the Bench that despite her attempts to persuade her not to terminate pregnancy, the petitioner is adamant on aborting the foetus

Termination of 26-week pregnancy: Supreme Court seeks another report from AIIMS; hearing on Monday

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Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 13

The Supreme Court on Friday asked doctors at AIIMS here to re-examine a 27-year-old married woman seeking to terminate her 26-week pregnancy and submit a report as to possible foetal abnormality and impact of psychiatric drugs prescribed to treat her alleged postpartum depression on continuance of the pregnancy.

“We are of the view that, bearing in the mind the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, it would be necessary to have a report of the Medical Board of the AIIMS, Delhi…,” a three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud said.

While hearing the Centre’s plea seeking recall of the October 9 order by a two-judge Bench that had ordered termination of the petitioner’s pregnancy, the CJI-led three-judge Bench had on Thursday said, “We can’t kill the child.”

The Bench specifically wanted to know if the foetus was suffering from any abnormality as mentioned in Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and if the continuance of her pregnancy of to full term would be jeopardised by the drugs which may be prescribed for the alleged condition from which she was stated to be suffering.

“The medical professionals at AIIMS would be at liberty to carry out their own diagnosis in regard to the alleged medical condition and to indicate their own independent evaluation of the mental and physical condition of the petitioner,” it said.

The Bench also requested the doctors to apprise it if the petitioner was found to be suffering from postpartum psychosis and if any alternate administration of medication consistent with the pregnancy would be available so as “to neither jeopardise the well- being of the petitioner or the foetus in that regard."

Directing that the petitioner shall be examined during the course of the day, the top court asked her to “appear before the Medical Board at AIIMS, Delhi preferably at 2 pm today.”

“Though the earlier report mentions that the fetus is normal, nonetheless, in order to place the matter beyond doubt, we request a further report to be submitted on the above aspect,” noted the Bench – which included Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra.

The Bench directed the AIIMS Medical Board to furnish the report to Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati so that it may be placed before the court at 10.30 am on 16 October 2023 (Monday).

It also asked the AIIMS doctors to examine the prescriptions submitted by the petitioner woman to find out if they were made up to make out a case for termination of pregnancy as it noticed that the nature of ailment was not mentioned by the Noida Psychiatric Clinic doctors who have been prescribing medicines since October 10, 2022.

Noting that there are rights of an unborn child, the Supreme Court had on Thursday asked the woman to reconsider her decision. It had asked Bhati and Mishra to talk to her and persuade her to carry the pregnancy for a few more weeks so that the child isn’t born with deformities — physical or mental.

The order came after the ASG told the Bench that despite attempts to persuade the petitioner not to terminate her pregnancy, she was adamant on aborting the foetus.

The woman’s counsel Amit Mishra tried to impress upon the Bench for an order for termination of pregnancy of his client by saying that she has been suffering from postpartum depression and that she was not in a position to take care of herself or her two children. She even attempted suicide, Mishra said.

The matter came to the CJI-led three-judge Bench after a two-judge Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice BV Nagarathna delivered a split verdict. While Justice Kohli was against termination of pregnancy, Justice BV Nagarathna stuck to her original decision, saying the woman had remained determined to abort it.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy 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. In exceptional cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the foetus is abnormal, the 24-week time limit can be breached.

Case hearing in SC 

  • Oct 9: Two-judge SC Bench allows termination of pregnancy
  • Oct 10: Citing AIIMS’ report, Centre says foetus has chance of being born, seeks recall of order
  • Oct 11: SC judges deliver a split verdict on woman’s petition
  • Oct 12: 3-judge Bench against stopping of fetal heartbeat, asks advocate to talk to petitioner
  • Oct 13: SC asks AIIMS doctors to re-examine the petitioner, foetus and submit a report
  • Oct 16: A three-judge Bench led by CJI to hear the matter again at 10:30 am

Why does the petitioner want abortion? 

  • Petitioner is a 27-year-old woman having two children
  • She is suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her second child in September 2022
  • Her lawyer claims she isn’t in a position to take care of her two children
  • She is said to have also attempted suicide
  • Her lawyer says medicines she takes for postpartum could harm the foetus

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#AIIMS #Supreme Court

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