'Why are you killing the child?': Delhi HC says unmarried woman should deliver

Updated on Jul 16, 2022 04:52 AM IST

The woman had moved court citing her unmarried status and a failed relationship wherein her partner “ditched” her at the last moment (about 18 weeks of pregnancy).

Delhi high court. (HT PHOTO)
Delhi high court. (HT PHOTO)

Permitting abortion at this stage would virtually amount to killing the foetus, the Delhi high court said on Friday while asking a 25-year-old unmarried woman to give her child for adoption rather than terminate her pregnancy of 23 weeks and four days.

“We will not permit you to kill that child. (We are) very sorry. This virtually amounts to killing (the foetus),” said the court orally as it noted that almost 24 of the 36 weeks of gestation were over.

The upper gestation limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for special categories, including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors; the corresponding window for unmarried women in consensual relationships is 20 weeks.

The woman had moved court citing her unmarried status and a failed relationship wherein her partner “ditched” her at the last moment (about 18 weeks of pregnancy). Social stigma coupled with mental and financial constraints compelled her to approach the court to terminate the pregnancy at an advanced stage, her counsel contended. He said the woman was the eldest of four siblings and her father is a farmer. Declining interim relief to the woman, a bench of chief justice Satish Chandra Sharma and justice Subramonium Prasad said, “Why are you killing the child? We are giving you a window... There is a big queue for adoptions.”

Sharma said that they were not forcing the woman to raise the child and would ensure she goes to a good hospital for delivery. “Your whereabouts will not be known to anyone. Deliver the baby, please come back... You ask the client. Everything will be looked after by the government of India or the Delhi government or some good hospital. I am also offering to pay,” CJ Sharma said.

The court remarked that when the woman has carried the child for 24 weeks, what could be the problem in carrying it for another four weeks.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the bar under the abortion law on medical termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks for instances of unmarried women was discriminatory in view of the relief being available to divorced women and certain other categories of women up to 24 weeks. He said that the law permitted unmarried women to undergo medical termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks and emphasised that the intent of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act is “safe abortion”.

The court, however, said that the law granted time to unmarried women to undergo the procedure of medical termination of pregnancy and the legislature has “purposefully excluded consensual relationship” from the category of cases where termination is permissible after 20 weeks and up to 24 weeks.

Central government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh told the court that permission cannot be granted as the foetus was developed and the baby was about to breathe.

On a suggestion by the court that it would refer the petitioner’s case to AIIMS to seek a medical opinion in terms of the MTP Act, the counsel said that such an opinion can be sought under certain specified circumstances and the petitioner’s case was not covered under them.

On Friday, after hearing the arguments from the petitioner’s counsel and the Centre, the court reserved its order on the plea.

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    Reports from the Delhi High Court and stories on legal developments in the city. Avid mountain lover, cooking and playing with birds 🐦 when not at work

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