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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

29-week-old foetus with brain problems can be aborted: Calcutta HC

The foetus is suffering from Down’s Syndrome apart from problems in the heart and oesophagus, said the lawyer for the petitioner.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2019 07:30 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
A view of the Calcutta High Court.
A view of the Calcutta High Court.(HT File Photo)

A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Monday overruled the order of a single bench of the same court, and allowed a woman to abort her 29-week-old foetus, which, according to the petitioner, has a severe brain anomaly.

The court also ruled the abortion could be done at any private facility.

The bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Arindam Mukherjee, while allowing the woman’s plea for abortion, observed that the mother “has the right to live a life of dignity since the state has refused to come forward to offer her any kind of financial and medical assistance”.

The foetus is suffering from Down’s Syndrome apart from problems in the heart and oesophagus, said the lawyer for the petitioner.

Arundhati Mukherjee, assistant professor of paediatrics of National Medical College and Hospital, said, “Problems of the heart and oesophagus are quite common in children suffering from Down’s Syndrome. Down’s Syndrome can be of different degrees. If it’s acute, life becomes extremely painful not only for the kid but also for the parents.”

On January 29, a single judge bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty turned down the 42-year-old woman’s petition to terminate what was then a 26-week-old foetus.

The judge observed that at that stage, abortion was impossible and if the baby was born with Down’s Syndrome, it could be treated.

Down’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder that is associated with delayed physical growth, and impaired intellectual growth apart.

According to the Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the permission of a high court is required for the abortion of a foetus which is more than 20 -weeks old .

The upper limit of legal abortions in India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2016 is 20 weeks, but the health ministry is finalising a proposal to increase it to 24 weeks, and, in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities, do away with the upper limit altogether.

The petitioner’s counsels — Kallol Basu and Apalak Basu — argued in court that her 48-year-old husband is an employee of a private firm with a modest salary, and it would be impossible for them to bear the cost of sustained treatment of a baby born with Down’s Syndrome.

They also emphasised the constant mental agony that the family would undergo in raising the child.

The couple has a 13-year-old daughter.

Earlier, a medical board of the state-run SSKM Medical College & Hospital [Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research, Kolkata], submitted a report to the single bench and said there is a possibility that the condition of the baby could improve if it is delivered after completion of the full-term of pregnancy.

The single bench order was based on the report of a medical board, constituted by the West Bengal government that the foetus was suffering from Down’s Syndrome and the baby would be born with grave abnormalities.

First Published: Feb 18, 2019 23:42 IST

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