'Want us to tell doctors to stop fetal heart?' SC remark in abortion hearing | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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'Want us to tell doctors to stop fetal heart?' SC remark in abortion hearing

ByVaibhav Tiwari
Oct 12, 2023 06:08 PM IST

The case was referred to the CJI-led bench after a two-judge bench on Wednesday gave a split verdict on the Centre's petition for recall of its Oct 9 order.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday made strong observations while hearing the Centre's petition seeking revocation of its October 9 order that allowed a married woman to terminate her 26-week pregnancy. "We cannot kill a child," the SC bench, headed by CJI DY Chandrachud, said.

The Supreme Court of India.(File)
The Supreme Court of India.(File)

The court, however, told the Centre it has to balance the rights of the "living and viable foetus" with the mother's right of decisional autonomy. The court also asked the Centre and the woman's lawyer to talk to her about retaining the pregnancy for a few weeks.

Also read: Supreme Court bench divided on abortion case, matter will be heard afresh

The case was referred to the CJI-led bench after a two-judge bench on Wednesday gave a split verdict on the Centre's petition for recall of its October 9 order, wherein it granted permission to the woman – mother of two children -- to abort her 26-week pregnancy.

The court had allowed the woman to medically terminate her pregnancy on the ground that she was suffering from depression and can't support a third child "emotionally, financially and mentally".

Also read: Explained: Abortion laws in India

In a strong remark, the court asked the 27-year-old woman's lawyer, "Do you want us to tell the doctors at AIIMS to stop the fetal heart?"

Responding to the counsel's "no", the bench asked the lawyer if the woman could retain the foetus for some more weeks.

Also read: Must show urgency in abortion hearings: Supreme Court

The court said the option of terminating the foetus can be exercised in cases of forced pregnancy or a minorunable to understand the consequences of giving birth to a child.

Justices Hima Kohli and BV Nagarathna on Monday allowed the woman to end her pregnancy. However, two days later, the bench differed on their opinions, after a medical report said the foetal heart would have to be stopped as part of the procedure.

Justice Kohli said she was not willing to proceed with the earlier decision and wondered which court could ask to stop the heartbeat of a foetus that has life. “Speaking for myself, I would not,” she said.

“Having regard to the information contained in the October 10 email addressed by AIIMS professor of department of obstetrics and gynaecology, one of us (justice Kohli) is not inclined to permit the petitioner to terminate pregnancy,” the order said.

But justice Nagarathna said she respectfully disagreed, observing that the woman’s plea was decided by the court with a detailed order on October 9 and the petitioner was determined about her decision to not proceed ahead with her pregnancy.

“Having regard to the concrete determination made by the petitioner, I find that her (the woman’s) decision must be respected. This is not a case where the question of a viable baby being born or unborn is to be really considered when the interest of the petitioner has to be given more balance and preference,” she said in her order.

With inputs from PTI

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