Monday, December 11, 2023

SC Rejects Pregnancy Termination Plea; Orders Govt to Pay Medical Expenses

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In a verdict favoring pro-life sentiments, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday against a woman’s plea to terminate her 26-week pregnancy. The bench, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, alongside Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra issued the decision stating that there were no threats to the mother’s health, no fetal abnormalities, and the presence of a viable fetus.

The court instructed the government to shoulder all medical expenses and directed that the delivery should be conducted at AIIMS when the appropriate time arrives. Additionally, the Supreme Court clarified that the parents would retain the choice of giving the child up for adoption.

With the pregnancy having surpassed 24 weeks, the termination of a 26-week pregnancy was deemed impermissible as it would contravene the provisions outlined in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

The All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) reported that no fetal abnormalities were detected in the woman’s fetus, emphasizing that, with proper care and treatment under medical supervision, both the mother and the baby could be managed effectively during pregnancy and postpartum.

“It is felt that with proper care and treatment under appropriate medical supervision, the mother and baby can be managed well during pregnancy and postpartum, as has been previously evidenced by her response to medications. In case of worsening of symptoms, she may be admitted and treated,” the AIIMS report stated.

The AIIMS report was submitted in response to the Supreme Court’s directive on October 13.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, provided information about the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, characterizing it as a liberal and pro-choice legislation that prioritizes a woman’s reproductive autonomy and health while also acknowledging the rights of a viable unborn child. Bhati underscored that the situation had transitioned from being a matter of choice to a choice between pre-term and full-term delivery.

She assured the court that the government would extend full support to the woman and her husband, including medical counseling.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves raised the issue of the unborn child’s rights and international law, highlighting the absence of a right to the unborn child in contemporary international legal frameworks and emphasizing the absolute nature of a woman’s rights.

The court engaged in a discussion regarding the permissibility of abortion even at 33 weeks of pregnancy in cases where the fetus exhibited no abnormalities, emphasizing that the matter at hand was limited to the woman and the state, with challenges to the law warranting separate proceedings.

The case was referred to a three-judge bench following a split decision by a two-judge bench on October 11. One judge ruled against the termination, while the other expressed disagreement, asserting that the woman’s decision to undergo the termination procedure should be respected.

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