The Bombay High Court on Tuesday allowed a woman from Mumbai to abort her 28-week-old foetus after doctors found it had severe abnormalities. The bench took into consideration the mental trauma the mother was likely to suffer post pregnancy and the risks to the child’s heath, among other factors, PTI reported.
Indian law allows women to abort foetuses up to 20-weeks-old, but courts can make exceptions in case abnormalities are detected and if there is substantial risk to the mother’s life and health. A pending bill in Parliament proposes to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to extend the legally permissible period to end a pregnancy to 24 weeks.
Although the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not take into consideration the mother’s mental health and abnormalities in foetuses older than 20 weeks, justices Rajesh Ketkar and RM Borde ruled that it was up to courts to expansively interpret its provisions. The woman’s lawyer had argued that forcing her to continue the pregnancy would cause her trauma and, in turn, affect her constitutional right to life.
It would not be right “to ask that the woman to continue with the pregnancy, considering that the child, once born, will have to battle life-hampering disabilities”, the judges said. “We feel that this stand of the court is logical and also in consonance with the proposed amendments to the MTP Act.”
A board of doctors from JJ Hospital found had severe brain and cardiac deformities in the foetus and that its stomach was still not formed. However, the doctors maintained that the pregnancy and delivery will not pose any risk to the woman’s physical health or life. Despite the opinion of the board, the court cited several similar judgments of the Supreme Court and other High Courts allowing abortions and said it would go beyond the definition of health and life of the woman and the risks a pregnancy poses as defined under by law.