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23-year-old woman moves HC to abort 24-week foetus

By Kanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 31, 2020 12:00 AM IST

A 23-year-old unmarried woman from Ratnagiri district has moved the Bombay high court (HC) seeking termination of her 24-week pregnancy that resulted from a consensual relationship.

Acting on her plea, a bench of justice Nitin Jamdar and justice NR Borkar on Friday directed the civil surgeon, Ratnagiri to set up a board consisting of doctors qualified and suitable to give an opinion as envisaged under section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

The woman has been ordered to appear before the board on May 30, following which the board has been directed to submit its report to the HC by June 1. The woman’s petition will come up for further hearing on June 2.

The woman moved the HC seeking permission to medically terminate her advanced pregnancy contending that “being an unmarried single woman delivering the child will be a social stigma and she cannot carry on the pregnancy and raise the child”.

Her counsel, advocate Harshad Bhadbhade pointed out that the woman became aware that she was pregnant only on May 20. The pregnancy was the outcome of a consensual relationship with a man, from whom the 23-year-old has since separated.

Bhadbhade submitted even such factual situation was covered under the MTP Act, 1971 and necessary direction allowing termination of the pregnancies advanced beyond the statutory limit of 20 weeks can be issued even in such cases.

Section 3 of the MTP Act allows medical termination of a pregnancy with a gestation of 12 to 20 weeks, only if at least two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health; or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

Explanation to the section clarifies that where the pregnancy is alleged to have been caused by rape or it occurs as a result of failure of any family planning device or method, the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman, and thus permits MTP in these two additional categories.

MTP of pregnancies advanced beyond the statutory limit of 20 weeks are done only on orders of the high court.

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