The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the petition for medical termination of a woman’s 27-week pregnancy, saying that there was no immediate threat to her or her child, reported Bar and Bench.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra noted that the pregnancy had crossed the 24-week threshold under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act allows women to opt for abortion even after the 24-week limit if a board of doctors agree that the continuation of pregnancy is a risk to her life or if a substantial abnormality was medically detected in the foetus.
The petitioner has sought abortion on the grounds that this is her third pregnancy and she is already suffering from postpartum psychosis since October 2022, when she delivered her second child. Her request to abort the pregnancy is also based on her financial situation.
Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental health condition that affects a person after they give birth. Those diagnosed with this condition often undergo hallucinations, delusions, paranoia or other behavioural changes. In some cases, mothers with postpartum psychosis also attempt to harm themselves or their newborns.
On Monday, the bench said that the delivery is to be conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, or AIIMS, at the appropriate time.
The court also clarified that the petitioner would have the choice to give the child up for adoption and asked the Central government to assist her.
In her petition, the woman submitted that she was unaware of her pregnancy because she suffers from lactational amenorrhea, which is a period of temporary infertility or postpartum infertility when there is an absence of menstruation in a lactating mother.
On October 9, 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, a day later, the court asked the AIIMS to put the termination on hold after Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, filed a recall application.
The Centre’s application stated that doctors at AIIMS, where the procedure was directed to be conducted, had raised the apprehension that the foetus would have a viable chance of being born.
On October 11, 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.
The top court on October 13 directed the AIIMS to examine whether the postpartum psychosis medicines taken by the petitioner have affected the foetus’ health. The court also asked AIIMS to conduct an independent evaluation of her mental and physical condition.