Termination of 26-week pregnancy: SC seeks report from AIIMS on condition of foetus
Facing a dilemma of whether to allow termination of pregnancy or not, the apex court has asked the board to form an opinion so as to put the matter beyond doubt.
In order to place the matter beyond doubt, the Supreme Court on Friday (October 13) sought a report from the medical board of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) if the 26-week foetus of a married woman, who is seeking permission to undergo termination of pregnancy, is suffering from any abnormality.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud was hearing arguments on the Centre’s application seeking recall of the apex court's October 9 order permitting a 27-year-old woman, a mother of two, to undergo termination of pregnancy at the AIIMS.
“Though the earlier report which has been submitted by AIIMS does mention that the foetus is normal, nonetheless, in order to place the matter beyond doubt, we request that a further report be submitted on the above aspect,” said the bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.
Continuation of pregnancy may be perilous
The bench noted the submissions of the petitioner's counsel that the woman has been undergoing treatment for symptoms of postpartum psychosis since last year. It asked the medical board to apprise the top court whether there was any evidence to indicate that the continuance of pregnancy of the petitioner would be jeopardised by the drugs prescribed for the alleged conditions from which she is stated to be suffering.
The top court said the doctors at the AIIMS would be at liberty to carry out their own independent evaluation of the mental and physical condition of the petitioner. “On doing so, we request the doctors to apprise this court, if the petitioner is found to be suffering from postpartum psychosis, whether any alternate administration of medication consistent with the pregnancy would be available so as to neither jeopardise the well-being of the petitioner or the foetus in that regard,” the bench said.
What does the law say about the termination of pregnancy?
The apex court said this exercise may be carried out during the course of the day and the report of the medical board be placed before it on October 16, the next date of hearing.
Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, the upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, special categories including survivors of rape, and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors.
While hearing the matter on Thursday (October 12), the bench had observed "we cannot kill the child" and stressed the need to balance the rights of an unborn child with the right to autonomy of the mother who has sought to abort the healthy foetus on account of her own ill health.
SC’s split verdict on termination
The issue arose after one of the doctors of the AIIMS medical board, which examined the woman and filed a report dated October 6 in the apex court, sent an e-mail on October 10 saying the foetus had a strong possibility of survival if the pregnancy was terminated at this stage. The matter came up before the CJI-led bench after a two-judge bench on Wednesday (October 11) gave a split verdict on the Centre's plea for recall of its October 9 order granting permission to the woman to terminate her pregnancy.
The apex court had on October 9 allowed the woman to proceed with medical termination of pregnancy after taking note that she was suffering from depression and was not in a position to raise a third child “emotionally, financially and mentally”. The woman had moved the apex court seeking approval to end her pregnancy citing medical grounds, including that she was suffering from postpartum depression.
(With agency inputs)