SC denies permission to abort 26-week-old foetus suffering from Down’s Syndrome
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Maharashtra woman’s plea to terminate her 23-week-old foetus on the ground that it suffered from Down syndrome after a court-appointed medical board advised against the abortion.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Maharashtra woman’s plea to terminate her 26-week-old foetus on the ground that it suffered from Down syndrome after a court-appointed medical board advised against the abortion.
In its report submitted a day earlier, the panel of doctors from Mumbai’s KEM Hospital held the baby had chances of survival and, therefore, abortion should not be performed. The Centre’s counsel solicitor general Ranjit Kumar also opposed the plea on the basis of the medical report.
The 37-year-old woman from Alibaug approached the top court seeking judicial intervention because the law does not allow a woman to abort if her pregnancy crosses 20 weeks.
Termination of pregnancy is allowed in extreme cases if continuation is likely to cause grave injury to the woman’s health and/or increase or induce a risk of abnormalities in the child.
In the present case, the bench of justice SA Bobde and justice LN Rao noted the board’s opinion and said there was no risk to the woman’s health, though it later orally observed that it was “very sad for a mother to bring up a mentally retarded child.”
Since the woman has also challenged the validity of the law saying it does not allow a woman to exert her right, the court tagged it with other petitions raising a similar contention.
The bench asked the solicitor to determine and address the court on whether a foetus can be termed as an independent life. “If it’s independent then can another person - her mother - take away the life? And if it’s not an independent life then it’s like any other organ in a woman’s body,” the bench said.
The woman’s counsel Colin Gonsalves said if a foetus is detected with Down’s Syndrome before the 20-week ceiling doctors advise abortion. The senior advocate said no other country in the world had restrictions like the one under the Indian law.
Internationally, a woman can seek an abortion of an abnormal foetus. However, each country has its own limit, which in most cases is more than 20 weeks. Switzerland, Great Britain and the Netherlands are the only countries to not have such a ceiling.
In January this year, the Supreme Court allowed a 22-year-old Mumbai woman to terminate a 24-week pregnancy after doctors said the foetus was malformed and also posed a risk to the mother’s life.
This is the third case of a pregnant woman approaching the top court seeking permission to abort a defective or under-developed foetus beyond the limit.