The ‘ultimate decision’ in matters of abortion ought to recognise a woman’s choice to give birth and the possibility of dignified life of the unborn child, the Delhi High Court observed on December 6, while permitting a 26-year-old married woman to terminate her 33-week pregnancy.
Justice Prathiba M. Singh permitted the woman, whose foetus suffers from cerebral abnormalities, to undergo medical termination of pregnancy immediately at an approved medical facility or Hospital of her choice.
Justice Singh noted that, “cases involving fetal abnormalities highlight the severe dilemma that women undergo while taking a decision to terminate the pregnancy”. The judge said in the present case, she was able to gauge the mental trauma affecting the parents as well as their economic- and social condition.
The High Court came to the conclusion that the woman was taking an informed decision to terminate her pregnancy after weighing all factors.
“In conclusion, the court holds that the ‘ultimate decision’ in such cases ought to recognise the choice of the mother as also the possibility of a dignified life of the unborn child...This court holds that medical termination of pregnancy ought to be permitted in the present case,” Justice Singh said.
The woman had in her plea stated that during her ultrasound tests till the 16th week of pregnancy no abnormalities were found in the foetus. “On November 12, she underwent another ultrasound after 30 weeks one day of pregnancy in which, for the first time, an abnormality was observed in the foetus,” she said.
Her plea added that subsequent medical examination and fresh consultation with another doctor confirmed the abnormalities.
The woman approached the High Court after the GTB Hospital in New Delhi declined her request for termination of pregnancy on the ground that the process shall require judicial intervention since her current gestational age was beyond the permissible limit of 24 weeks under the amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
The woman, in her plea, stated that the foetus borne by her carries substantial cerebral abnormalities which are likely to subsist lifelong and the child might not be able to lead a normal life.
While the right of a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy has been the subject matter of debate across the world, the High Court said, “India is among the countries which recognises this choice of a woman in its law”.
“This right gives the woman the ultimate choice as to whether she wants to give birth to the child she has conceived,” the High Court said.
The High Court also remarked that the medical board, constituted to examine the woman and the condition of the foetus, did not give a “categorical opinion” on the degree of handicap or the quality of the life of the foetus after birth.
“Such unpredictability ought to weigh in favour of the woman seeking termination of pregnancy,” the High Court said.