Pregnancy termination: HC directs AIIMS to constitute medical board to examine pregnant woman, foetus

The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to constitute a medical board to consider whether it would be safe for a 22-week pregnant woman to undergo termination of pregnancy and to examine the condition of the fetus.

The high court was hearing a plea by a 31-year-old married woman, who said she has decided to file for divorce and therefore, does not want to continue with her pregnancy.

Justice Subramonium Prasad said the medical board shall be constituted immediately and its report be placed before the court within 48 weeks.

The woman approached the high court seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy of 22 weeks and four days as of date, under the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

As the woman chose not to implead her husband in the petition, the high court directed her to amend the memo of parties and implead her husband in the matter during the course of the day.

“On amended memo of parties being filed let notice be issued to the husband of the petitioner (woman) through all modes The husband of the petitioner be also served notice through the local police station,” the high court said and listed the plea for further hearing on October 19.

It also issued notice to the Centre on the petition.

The court said the opinion of a medical board would be necessary for consideration as to whether it would be safe for the woman to undergo the procedure for termination of pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner and also to ascertain the conditions of the foetus.

“For this purpose, this court is inclined to direct AIIMS, New Delhi to immediately constitute a medical board to consider as to whether it will be safe for the petitioner herein to undergo the procedure for termination of pregnancy or not and also on the condition of foetus. Let the report of the medical board, so constituted, be forwarded to this court within 48 hours from today,” the judge said.

It was the woman’s case that she got married in May this year and in June she came to know about her pregnancy. She stated in the plea that she was being tortured, and abused verbally, physically, mentally and emotionally by her husband at her matrimonial home.

The plea said that in July, her husband physically assaulted her and it was repeated in August when she was pregnant and thereafter, she came to her parental home.

She sought to terminate her pregnancy saying that she has decided to separate from her husband and file for divorce.

The court noted that the woman has not filed any FIR against her husband complaining of physical abuse and has also not filed any petition for divorce or judicial separation from her husband.

“However, the ratio of the apex court is that it is the prerogative of each woman to evaluate her life and arrive at the best course of action in view of the change in material circumstances. The apex court was of the opinion that change in material circumstance may result when a woman separates from her partner and she may no longer have the financial resources to raise the child.

“The apex court has included the cases of domestic violence perpetrated on a woman under Rule 3B(c) of the MTP Rules wherein a woman is permitted to terminate her pregnancy up to 24 weeks on the grounds of change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy. The Apex Court has held that the right to reproductive autonomy is closely linked with the right to bodily autonomy,” the high court said.

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It noted that the Supreme Court has held that the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy on a woman’s body as well as her mind cannot be understated and, therefore, the decision to carry the pregnancy to its full term or terminate it is firmly rooted in the right to bodily autonomy and decisional autonomy of the pregnant woman.

The high court perused Section 3 of the MTP Act which provides for termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioners.

It said this section prescribes that a pregnancy which does not exceed 20 weeks can be terminated by a registered medical practitioner if he is of the opinion that continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality.

Rule 3(B) of the MTP Rules permits a woman to terminate her pregnancy up to 24 weeks with certain conditions.

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