The Delhi High Court on Friday, 15 July, sought the opinion of All India Medical Council, and has reserved its order in a petition filed by an unmarried woman to undergo abortion at three days' short of her 24th week.
Under the amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, a pregnancy not exceeding 24 weeks can be permitted to be terminated after getting the opinion of two doctors. In this case, the woman is 23 weeks and four days pregnant.
However, according to Section 5, the ceiling limit is not applicable if two medical practitioners "form an opinion in good faith that the termination of pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the woman."
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, while dealing with the petition by the woman to undergo the procedure, however suggested that the petitioner be kept “somewhere safe” until she delivers the child who can subsequently be given up for adoption.
“We will ensure that the girl is kept somewhere safe and she can deliver and go. There is a big queue for adoption,” observed the bench, also comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad.
'I Am Offering To Pay'
Counsel for the petitioner said the woman, being unmarried, is not "physically, mentally and financially fit" to raise the child, reported Live Law. He also added that the bar in law on medical termination of pregnancy in relation to unmarried women was discriminatory.
"My case is that I'm running 23 weeks, being unmarried. This is a genuine case where petitioner was ditched at the last moment. This will cause great injury to her mental health and be violation of her reproductive rights," the counsel to the petitioner said, reported Live Law.
The court said that it was not forcing the petitioner to raise the child but instead suggested that she could give the child up for adoption.
“We will not permit you to kill that child. (We are) very sorry. This virtually amounts to killing (the fetus),” said the court as it noted that almost 24 out of 36 weeks of gestation were over.
“You ask the client. Everything will be looked after by the government of India or Delhi government or some good hospital… I am also offering to pay,” said the chief justice.
Precedents by Delhi HC
In January 2022, the very Delhi High Court permitted a 28-week pregnant woman to undergo medical termination of pregnancy on account of substantial fetal abnormality. In a progressive order, the court said that reproductive choice is a dimension of personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.
Allowing the woman’s plea to undergo the procedure, Justice Jyoti Singh stated that allowing the "pregnancy to continue would have a deleterious impact on the petitioner’s mental health and she cannot be deprived of the freedom to take a decision to continue or not to continue with the pregnancy."
In another case in October 2021, the court permitted an over 24-week pregnant woman to undergo medical termination of pregnancy, considering that the chances of survival of the fetus after birth were extremely remote.
“When it is evident that if pregnancy is carried to term, the chances of survival of the anencephalic child are very remote and even if he survives, his quality of life will be highly compromised. The petitioner ought to be granted permission to undergo the procedure of medical termination,” said the judge.