Bom HC | “Abortion is often the only way out in a very difficult situation for a woman”; Medical termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks can be permitted only on limited grounds

Can Medical Termination of Pregnancy be allowed beyond 20 weeks gestation period?

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Ujjal Bhuyan and R.I. Chagla, JJ., denied the termination of pregnancy to woman aged 39 years old as the gestation was beyond 20 weeks and medical board’s report had also recommended the same.

Petitioner sought a direction to respondent 2 along with a duly constituted medical board to examine the petitioner — whether the termination of pregnancy of petitioner is possible and further on consideration of the medical report to allow the petitioner to do so.

Petitioner states that she is a married woman and after her examination it was revealed that she was pregnant beyond 20 weeks.

She stated that pregnancy occurred as a result of failure of the contraceptive method and that because of a history of irregular menses, the petitioner did not suspect her pregnancy.

Petitioner claimed that she and her family were in no condition financially and neither was the petitioner who was 39 years old, mentally prepared to be a mother.

As petitioner’s pregnancy has crossed 20 weeks she approached the Court.

Contention placed by the counsel fo the petitioner was that, by placing reliance upon Explanation 1 to Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971:

“Where any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any device or method used by any married woman, as has happened in the present case, the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.”

Women would ideally prefer to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, and by forcing a woman to do continue with the pregnancy represents a violation of the rights of the woman’s bodily integrity.

Decision

High Court observed that petitioner was examined by the Medical Board on 20th June, 2020 and according to the board termination of pregnancy cannot be recommended for 2 reasons:

  • that the gestation age is beyond 20 weeks
  • that there are no valid indications for medical termination of pregnancy as per the said Act.

In the case of Sarmishtha Chakraborty v. UOI, (2018) 13 SCC 339

“Supreme Court considered the report of the medical board which revealed that the mother i.e. Petitioner wife would suffer mental injury if the pregnancy was continued and there would be multiple problems if the child was born alive. Medical board had arrived at the conclusion that in a special case of that nature, pregnancy should be allowed to be terminated even after 20 weeks.”

Hence only on limited grounds termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks can be allowed by the Court.

Abortion is often the only way out in a very difficult situation for a woman.

It is further held by this Court that if a woman does not want to continue with the pregnancy, then forcing her to do so is in violation of the woman’s bodily integrity and aggravates her mental trauma which would be deleterious to her mental health.

In the present matter, Court’s opinion was that the reasons for medical termination of pregnancy beyond the statutory limit of 20 weeks as were stated by the petitioner were not valid grounds for medical termination of pregnancy.

Thus in view of the above termination of pregnancy was not allowed. [Rubina Kasam Phansopkar v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 765 , decided on 07-07-2020]

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