Hearing a petition on the medical termination of a woman’s 26-week pregnancy, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that it must balance the rights of the mother and her unborn child, Live Law reported.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra will continue the hearing on Friday. They asked the Centre and the woman’s lawyer to talk to the woman about the possibility of retaining the pregnancy for a few more weeks.
“We must also think of the right of the unborn child,” Chandrachud remarked, according to Live Law. “Woman’s autonomy is important of course. She has a right under Article 21...but equally, we must be conscious of the fact that whatever is done will affect the right of the unborn child.”
Chandrachud added, “Who is appearing for the unborn child? You’re for the mother, [Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya] Bhati for government... How do you balance the rights of the unborn child? It’s a living viable foetus.”
Last week, the Supreme Court ordered a medical board to examine the mother after she submitted that she was unaware of her pregnancy because she suffers from lactational amenorrhea. The woman, a mother of two, said she was also being treated for postpartum depression. Her decision to abort the pregnancy is also based on her financial situation.
Lactational amenorrhea is a period of temporary infertility or postpartum infertility when there is an absence of menstruation in a lactating mother.
On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the woman to terminate the pregnancy. “The court does recognise the decisional autonomy of the petitioner who has taken a plea of her physical, mental, psychological, financial and social background to seek termination of her pregnancy,” said the bench.
However, on Tuesday, the court asked the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to put the termination on hold after Bhati, appearing for the Centre, filed a recall application.
The Centre’s application stated that doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where the procedure was directed to be conducted, had raised the apprehension that the foetus would have a viable chance of being born.
On Wednesday, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Hima Kohli and BV Nagarathna was split in its opinion on the termination and referred the matter to a larger bench.
While Kohli said that her “judicial conscience” does not allow her to permit the termination, Nagarathna said she found no reason to interfere with Monday’s order.