The question as to whether a women ahead of 24 weeks of pregnancy can be allowed to undergo medical termination of pregnancy was recently dealt with by the Delhi High Court where a 28 week pregnant women, aged 33 years, was allowed to undergo medical termination of pregnancy on the ground of substantial foetal abnormality and the matter was before vacation judge, Justice Jyoti Singh in the matters between X vs. Govt of NCT W.P.(C) 14862/2021 decided on 31.12.2021.
The facts of this case are that the Petitioner only found out about the anomalies in the unborn child in the 24th week of gestation. Thereafter,she consulted many Doctors and to their medical opinion, infants born with such conditions have only fifty per cent chances of surviving the first year and thereafter repeated surgeries are required to be conducted. Moreover, success of these surgery depend upon the stimuli of the child. The Petitioner approached the court for seeking direction to allow her to undergo medical terminate of pregnancy. The High Court directed the respondent to constitute a medical board to examine the Petitioner’s condition when she was already 28 weeks pregnant.
The counsel on behalf of the Petitioner contended that the foetus is suffering from a “rare congenital disease, TOF with APV” and also has to undergo repeated surgeries until adulthood involving major life risks. He further contended that “the foetus has substantial abnormalities and that the child, starting from the time of birth, will have medical complications and shall require repeated cardiac surgeries.” This will cause a lot of mental trauma and she is so stressed that she is not the right frame of mind to continue with this pregnancy.He contended that statute provides for termination of pregnancy if threat of injury to mental health of pregnant women persists.Moreover, women has the reproductive rights and is at liberty to make choices as recognized under personal liberty of Article 21.
The counsel on behalf of the Respondent contended that the Board’ stand is that the abnormality in the foetus is rare and major but not lethal.Though the foetus suffers from major congenital heart anomaly, yet “there are more than 80 per cent chances of success and the child may have an average physical capacity and growth.”Hence, the pregnancy should be allowed to continue its term.
The Delhi High Court upheld the interest of the mother on a higher pedestal than the interest of the unborn child by citing various case laws in this regard.It opined that continuing a preganancy after knowing that the foetus has substantial abnormality is a high risk and complication to bear with and definitely has “deleterious impact on the mental health of the Petitioner.” The writ petition was allowed and Petitioner was permitted to terminate the pregnancy.