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'Can't stop heartbeat': Supreme Court dismisses woman's plea seeking termination of 26-week pregnancy

While hearing the matter, the apex court observed that the termination of a 26-week pregnancy can not be allowed as it would violate the provisions under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

Edited By: Anurag Roushan @Candid_Tilaiyan New Delhi Published on: October 16, 2023 17:21 IST
Supreme Court
Image Source : PTI The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a woman's plea, seeking medical termination of 26 weeks of pregnancy, in a decision being termed as pro-life. A bench comprising of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra passed the order observing that there are no threats to the mother, not a case of foetal abnormality and doctors will face a viable foetus.

The court also directed the government to bear all medical costs and the delivery to be conducted by AIIMS at the appropriate time. The apex court clarified the choice to give the child up for adoption depending on the parents. The court noted that pregnancy has crossed over 24 weeks and termination of a 26-week pregnancy can not be allowed as it would violate the provisions under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

"Pregnancy is 26 weeks and 5 days. Allowing termination of pregnancy will be a violation of Sections 3 and 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as there is no immediate danger to the mother, and this is not a case of foetal abnormality. We cannot stop the heartbeat," CJI Chandrachud said.

What AIIMS said in its report?

Earlier on Monday, the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) apprised the Supreme Court that no abnormality has been detected in the foetus of a woman who had petitioned to seek the medical termination of her 26-week pregnancy and that with proper care and treatment under appropriate medical supervision, the mother and baby can be managed well during pregnancy and postpartum psychosis. "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," AIIMS report said.

The hospital's report was filed after the apex court directed it to do so in an order on October 13. The woman has sought the termination of her 26-week pregnancy whereas the Centre has filed an application seeking a recalling of the top court's order by which the woman's petition has been allowed.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati submitted the AIIMS report that stated that the woman has a past history of postpartum psychosis, currently controlled on medications. AIIMS report also said that as per the assessment by ultrasonography and fetal Echo, the foetus did not present any structural anomaly.

AIIMS also said that the continuation of pregnancy to full term while the woman is on the revised medications is not likely to significantly increase the risk of adverse outcomes for the mother and foetus as compared to other pregnant women. The court also took the note of AIIMS report. 

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

ASG Bhati, appearing for the Centre, apprised the court about the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and said that it is a liberal and pro-choice legislation, aimed at giving absolute primacy to the reproductive autonomy and health of the woman while balancing the rights of a viable unborn child. She further added that now it is not a matter of choice but a choice between pre-term delivery and full-term delivery. She assured the court that the government would assist her and her husband with everything including medical counselling.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves apprised the court on the issue related to the unborn and said that in international law today there is no right to the unborn child and the right of the woman is absolute. But the court remarked with a question whether the woman should be allowed to abort even at 33 weeks of pregnancy in those cases where the foetus is not abnormal. The court also said that the challenge to be law should be dealt with in some other proceedings as now the matter is limited to the woman and the state.

(With ANI inputs)

ALSO READ: Delhi govt officer allegedly raped friend's minor daughter, his wife terminated teen’s pregnancy

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