In a significant order that endorses a woman’s “sole right over her own body” and her consequent right to “choose or not to choose motherhood,” the Bombay High Court has held that the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act must extend to the “mental health” of a woman and that she be allowed to opt out of an unwanted pregnancy irrespective of the reason.
A bench of Justices VK Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar held that although the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, provides for a woman to undergo abortion if she is under 12 weeks pregnant, and with the consent of two medical practitioners if she is 12 to 20 weeks pregnant in cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to the health of the woman or to the foetus, a woman must be allowed to undergo abortion even if there is no risk to her physical health.
“Pregnancy has profound effects on a woman’s health and life. Thus, how she wants to deal with this pregnancy must be a decision she alone can make. Let us not lose sight of the basic right of women: the right to decide what to do with their bodies, including whether or not to get pregnant and stay pregnant,” the bench said.
The observations came while the bench was hearing a plea filed by a prisoner under trial seeking to abort her 15-week-old foetus since her partner had abandoned her and she did not wish to carry on with the pregnancy anymore.