Delhi HC recalls order allowing widow to abort 29-week pregnancy

The court said the 26-year-old woman, who is into 32 weeks period of gestation, can go to either AIIMS or any Central or State hospital to undergo her delivery

January 23, 2024 05:12 pm | Updated 08:41 pm IST - New Delhi

The Delhi High Court said a 26-year-old woman, who is into 32 weeks period of gestation, can go to either All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or any Central or State hospital to undergo her delivery. Image for representation purpose only. File

The Delhi High Court said a 26-year-old woman, who is into 32 weeks period of gestation, can go to either All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or any Central or State hospital to undergo her delivery. Image for representation purpose only. File

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday recalled its January 4 order permitting a widow to terminate her then 29 weeks-old pregnancy as she was going through “immense trauma” and showing “suicidal tendencies” after the death of her husband.

The court said the 26-year-old woman, who is into 32 weeks period of gestation, can go to either All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or any Central or State hospital to undergo her delivery.

Also read: CJI says India’s abortion law is liberal, pro-choice and far ahead of other countries

“If the petitioner [woman] is inclined to give the newborn child in adoption then as suggested by Aishwarya Bhati, Additional Solicitor General, the Union of India shall ensure that the process of adoption takes place at the earliest and in a smooth fashion,” the court ordered.

Ms. Bhati assured the court that the Centre will give all assistance and pay all medical costs and other incidental charges of delivery.

The court rejected the contention of the woman that the AIIMS must be directed to go ahead with the foeticide.

Right to life

The order came on a plea by both the Centre and the AIIMS urging the court to consider protecting the right to life of the unborn child so that the child has a fair chance of survival.

On January 4 this year, the court had permitted the widow to terminate her then 29 weeks-old pregnancy as she was going through “immense trauma” and showing “suicidal tendencies” after the death of her husband.

Also read: Why are abortion laws in the spotlight again? | Explained

The AIIMS, where the woman was medically examined, later submitted a report to the court, saying, “Foeticide in this case is neither justified nor ethical as the fetus is grossly normal”.

The Medical Board at the AIIMS said the Psychological Assessment Report of the woman is suggestive of a normal individual as like others. The report also indicates that the woman is suffering from depression which is associated with her stress life events and not suggestive of any psychotic features.

It further said the psychiatrist who has evaluated the woman has not given any report suggesting that the ongoing pregnancy and delivery will cause a grave injury to her mental health, which is necessary for giving permission for termination of pregnancy exceeding 20 weeks.

Also read: Supreme Court divided on married woman’s right to abort 26-week pregnancy

In India, the rules stipulate a ceiling of 24 weeks for termination of pregnancy for special categories of women which would include survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently abled women, minors) etc.

The woman, in her plea, said she got married in February 2023 and her husband passed away on October 19, 2023. The woman came back to her parents’ house and when she went for an ultrasound on October 31, 2023 it was found that she is 20 weeks pregnant.

The woman said she decided not to continue the ongoing pregnancy in December last year and approached the doctors for medical termination of her pregnancy. Since her gestation period was over 24 weeks, she was not allowed to medically terminate her pregnancy, prompting her to approach the court.

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