Delhi high court allows woman to terminate 33-week pregnancy

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The Delhi high court on Tuesday allowed a woman to terminate her pregnancy at 33 weeks due to abnormalities in her foetus, “the ultimate decision in such cases ought to recognise the choice of the mother as well as the possibility of dignified life of an unborn child”.

“Keeping in mind, these two factors, the court is of the opinion that the mother’s choice has been made in a completely bonafide manner. There exist risks involved in the unborn child’s chances of leading a dignified and self-sustaining life based on medical reports. The court holds that medical termination needs to be allowed in the present case,” justice Prathibha M Singh said.

The judge, who interacted with the woman before delivering her verdict, said she was convinced that the woman has weighed the risks involved and taken a well-informed decision.

The woman approached the high court to seek medical termination of pregnancy at 33 weeks on account of cerebral abnormalities in the foetus. According to the Medical Termination Pregnancy (MTP) Act, medical termination of pregnancy is allowed only till 24 weeks.

The plea argued that the 24-week limit was not applicable “since the foetus borne by the petitioner (woman) carries substantial cerebral abnormalities”.

The high court earlier constituted a medical board at the Lok Nayak Jaiprakash hospital to make an assessment of the abnormalities. The order noted that the medical board did not give a categorical assessment of the degree of handicap or the quality of life of the child after birth, adding such unpredictability weighs in favour of the petitioner.

It said the medical board’s opinion in such cases was of considerable importance to the court and cannot be sketchy and fragmented.

“There ought to be some standard factors on which the opinion should be given by the board to whom such cases are referred. Such factors ought to include medical condition of the foetus, by explaining it in laypersons terms along with some medical literature annexed with it, “ the court noted.

The judge added that medical boards should interact with the woman concerned in a congenial manner, assess her physical and mental condition and include its opinion in its report.

“The opinion should briefly mention as to what are the risks for the woman in either continuing the pregnancy or undergoing termination, any other factors to be considered, the relevant factors which may have a bearing on the case also ought to be mentioned, “ the court recommended.

It noted that with the emergence of modern technologies to detect abnormalities in the foetus, the issues surrounding termination and abortion, are bound to become more and more complex.

“Such technology coupled with the unpredictability of degree of abnormalities, even by medical practitioners, posts challenges to the manner in which society may grow in the future, “ the court said.

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