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High court gives Mumbai woman permission to abort 25-week abnormal foetus

The bench gave the Jogeshwari resident permission after the committee it appointed confirmed that if the child was born, it would be severely handicapped for life.

mumbai Updated: Nov 07, 2017 09:38 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Abortion,Bombay High Court,Pregnancy
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not allow abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where there is a threat to the mother’s life.

The Bombay high court on Monday granted permission to a Jogeshwari resident to abort her 25-week foetus , which has been detected with a severe abnormality. This is the first such order from the court, which, in 2008, denied permission to a Bhayander resident who also wanted to terminate her pregnancy as the foetus had heart complications.

The petitioner’s lawyer said the foetus was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari malformation [type II] — a condition in which there are structural defects in the cerebellum [part of the brain at the back of the skull]. The family approached Dr Nikhil Datar, a Mumbai-based gynaecologist, who has been providing legal and medical advice to women past the 20-week legal deadline for abortion.

This year alone, 17 women from Mumbai and its neighbouring suburbs had to approach the Supreme Court for permission to terminate their pregnancies. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not allow abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where there is a threat to the mother’s life. Any person or doctor breaching these provisions can be sent to jail for up to seven years. There is a proposal to amend the law, allowing abortion up to 24 weeks.

“In view of the peculiar situation [pertaining to the foetus’ medical complications] and having due regard of the fundamental rights conferred on the petitioner under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to live life of dignity, it will be appropriate and in the interest of justice to permit the petitioner to undergo medical termination of pregnancy under the provision of the Medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971,” said a bench of justice Shantanu Kemkar and justice G S Kulkarni on Monday.

The bench said it was very difficult for to refuse permission to the petitioner because the court is certain that if the child is born it will be physically handicapped for life, which cannot be avoided.

On November 3, the HC constituted a committee of experts from Sir JJ Hospital to examine the woman and submit a report on her psychological and physiological condition. The committee, in its report dated November 4, stated that because of the abnormalities in the foetus, the chances of morbidity and mortality are high, and that if the child was born, it would require multiple surgeries.

“There are high chances of meningitis, mental complications, paralysis of lower limb and loss of urine and bowel control. The condition of the foetus fulfils the criteria of substantial risk of serious physical handicap in the foetus,” experts from Sir JJ Hospital stated in the report.

The experts further stated that the pregnancy has advanced to 25 weeks and six days and at this stage the risk of termination is the same as continuing with the pregnancy. “Thus, if the court permits, the pregnancy can be terminated as desired by the woman,” experts added.

First Published: Nov 07, 2017 09:35 IST