High court allows Mohali woman to abort 22-week foetus
The Punjab and Haryana high court has allowed a Mohali woman to terminate her pregnancy, even as the foetus is 22-week old. The decision was taken considering a serious health condition faced by the child upon birth.
The law does not permit termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks. While passing the order, the high court took note of two instances in which the apex court had allowed abortion of 24-week-old foetuses that suffered from similar medical condition.
The Mohali couple had approached the high court on August 16, seeking permission to terminate the pregnancy. While the woman is a homemaker, her husband is a taxi driver.
In its medical opinion, the department of obstetrics and gynaecology, Post Medical Research Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, confirmed that the foetus was affected with beta thalassaemia major and the couple may be offered an abortion.
Thalassaemia is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect a substance in the blood called haemoglobin. People with thalassaemia produce either no or too little haemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
The PGIMER had opined that a foetus with thalassaemia major is not expected to have a normal life expectancy. “... the baby would require repetitive blood transfusions for survival, which is associated with multiple complications,” it was opined.
The bench of justice Tejinder Singh Dhindsa observed that even though there is an embargo on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the clear opinion given by the medical expert is that the baby born with the medical condition of thalassaemia major is not expected to have a normal life expectancy. “... in such circumstances it would be difficult for the court to refuse permission as medical expert opinion is clearly leaning in favour of an abortion,” the court said.
The court also took note of the fact that the petitioner couple are from a poor background.
“They would not have the financial means to afford the baby to undergo repetitive blood transfusions and to afford necessary medical treatment in the eventuality of any medical complication rising therefrom,” their counsel, Sumeet Singh Brar, had told court.
LAW DOES NOT PERMIT TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY AFTER 20 WEEKS
According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, a registered medical practitioner can abort up to 12-week pregnancy
Where the length of pregnancy is beyond that and up to 20 weeks, it can be terminated on the doctors’ opinion that states its continuance would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health. It can also be terminated if there is a substantial risk to the newborn, or the child is likely to suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped
While passing the order, the high court took note of two instances in which the apex court had allowed abortion of 24-week-old foetuses that suffered from similar medical condition