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HC permits unmarried woman to terminate 23-week pregnancy


Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has permitted an unmarried woman to terminate her over 23-week pregnancy, observing that giving birth to a child out of wedlock would cause her much mental and physical anguish.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act prohibits termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks.

A bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and Surendra Tavade in an order on Tuesday also took note that the 23-year-old woman, a resident of Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district, failed to undergo pregnancy termination within the 20 weeks permissible limit "mainly because she could not consult" a doctor in time due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.

The bench permitted her to undergo the procedure at a medical facility of her choice by Friday.

On May 29, following the woman's petition, another bench of the high court directed a medical board at the civil hospital in Ratnagiri to assess her for any possible health risks, if she underwent the medical termination procedure.

The woman is over 23 weeks pregnant, as per the plea filed last week.

In her petition, the woman said while the pregnancy was a result of a consensual relationship, she cannot carry it to term since she is unmarried and hence, giving birth would cause her "social stigma".

The woman said in her plea that she would not be able to "handle the child as an unmarried single parent".

The petitioner also said it would not be possible for her to get married in future because of the social stigma, and that she was mentally not ready to be a mother.

She also told the court that she could not get a sonography done and seek an abortion in time as she had been unable to consult a doctor due to the lockdown.

The MTP Act permits abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, after consultation with a doctor. For termination of pregnancy between 12 to 20 weeks, medical opinion of two doctors is required.

Beyond 20 weeks, exceptions are legally permissible only if continuation of the pregnancy poses a threat to the mothers health and life.

In the present case, the high court noted that while the pregnancy did not pose any risks to the petitioner's physical health,it was likely to have an adverse impact on her mental health.

The petitioner states that the delay beyond 20 weeks is caused because she could not consult any doctor, mainly due to the prevailing lockdown. She says she has already suffered immense mental and physical anguish due to her unwanted pregnancy, the bench observed.

"Keeping in mind the submissions set out by the petitioner in her plea, we are of the view that if the petitioner is compelled to continue with her pregnancy, the same will involve a risk of grave physical and mental injury to her," the court said while allowing the plea.

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