Termination of 26-week pregnancy: SC seeks another report from AIIMS; hearing on Monday

New Delhi, October 13 

The Supreme Court on Friday asked doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to re-examine during the day a 27-year-old married woman seeking to terminate her 26-week pregnancy and submit a report as to her physical and mental health as also the health of the foetus.

A three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud also asked the AIIMS doctors to examine the medical prescriptions submitted by the petitioner woman to find out if they were made up to make out a case for termination of pregnancy as it found that the nature of ailment was not mentioned by the doctors who prescribed her psychiatric medicines.

The order came after Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati told the Bench that despite her attempts to persuade her not to terminate pregnancy, the petitioner was adamant on aborting the foetus.

The woman’s counsel Amit Mishra tried to impress upon the Bench for an order for termination of pregnancy of his client by saying that she has been suffering from postpartum depression and that she was not in a position to take care of herself or her two children. She even attempted suicide, he said.

After hearing ASG Bhati and Mishra, the Bench — which also included Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra – sought a fresh report from AIIMS and posted for further hearing on Monday the Centre’s plea for recall of the October 9 order by a two-judge Bench that had ordered termination of the petitioner’s pregnancy.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the upper limit for termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, special categories, including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as those differently-abled and minors. Since the petitioner had crossed the statutory 24-week period, she had to move court for permission to terminate her pregnancy. In exceptional cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the foetus is abnormal, the 24-week time limit can be breached.

Noting that there are rights of an unborn child, the Supreme Court had on Thursday asked the woman to reconsider her decision. It had asked Bhati and Mishra to talk to her and persuade her to carry the pregnancy for a few more weeks so that the child isn’t born with deformities — physical or mental.A Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice BV Nagarathna, which had on Monday allowed termination of the woman’s pregnancy, heard the Centre’s recall petition. The Centre contended the AIIMS doctors, who examined the petitioner, were of the opinion the foetus had a chance of being born. While Justice Kohli was against termination of pregnancy, Justice Nagarathna stuck to her original decision, saying the woman had remained determined to abort it. Despite AIIMS doctors saying the foetus had a chance of being born, the petitioner — a mother of two — insisted she wanted to terminate her pregnancy.

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