Court declines abortion plea, says it can’t ‘stop heartbeat’ of viable foetus

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Source: The post is based on the article “Court declines abortion plea, says it can’t ‘stop heartbeat’ of viable foetus” published in “The Hindu” on 17th October 2023

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has declined a married woman’s plea to medically terminate her 26-week pregnancy.

The court gave this judgment based on the report of the AIIMS medical board that had found no substantial foetal abnormalities.

What is the case about?

A married woman had filed a petition to medically terminate her 26-week pregnancy.

She argued that she  already has two boys and that the pregnancy was unplanned. 

According to her, her family income is insufficient to support another child, and that she is under medication for postpartum depression.

Earlier, a 2-judge Bench had allowed the termination of the pregnancy.The court had said that an unwanted pregnancy due to failure of contraceptive methods is the same as a forced pregnancy.

However, AIIMS wrote to the SC and said that it would need a directive on whether a foeticide can be done before termination since the foetus is “currently viable”.

— Note: Foetus Viability is the point at which a foetus can survive outside the womb.It is generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks, but there’s no universal consensus.

Later, the case went before a 3-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

What is the judgment given by the Supreme Court on this?

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has declined permission to a married woman to terminate her over 26-week pregnancy.

The court gave this judgment based on following grounds: 

Firstly, the pregnancy had crossed 24 weeks — the upper limit for allowing Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP).

Secondly, the woman cannot claim an absolute right to abort especially when multiple reports from the AIIMS medical Board have confirmed that the pregnancy was not a cause of immediate danger to her life or the foetus.

Thirdly, Section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act prescribes medical termination if the pregnancy was immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.

– The term ‘life’ used in this provision cannot be equated to the broader meaning in which ‘life’ is used in Article 21 of the Constitution.Article 21 upholds an individual’s fundamental right to a dignified, meaningful life.

– On the other hand, Section 5 uses ‘life’ in the context of a life-and-death situation when medical opinion confirms that a woman’s very existence is threatened if she attempts to carry her pregnancy to full term.

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