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Supreme Court allows woman in Maharashtra to abort 26-week foetus with heart condition

This is the first instance in which SC has defied the medical report.

mumbai Updated: Aug 11, 2017 00:19 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Supreme Court

The Supreme Court allowed a 23-year-old pregnant woman from Satara to terminate her 26-week pregnancy on Thursday. The petitioner’s lawyers welcomed the verdict since the report submitted by BJ Medical College had said advised otherwise.

The report had said that continuation of pregnancy did not pose as a ‘risk to the life of the mother’. This is the first instance in which SC has defied the medical report. In past cases, abortion has been allowed or denied based only on the medical report.

The 26-week-old foetus was diagnosed with a continental cardiac anomaly known as Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome in the 22nd week of pregnancy. The anomaly causes underdevelopment of the right side heart chambers, valves and related blood vessels, hampering blood flow to lungs and oxygen levels.

Doctors said the minute cardiac anomalies are only picked up after 20-22 weeks, unless latest technologies and highly qualified radiologists are involved. On the request of SC, BJ Medical College submitted a report which said that numerous corrective surgeries, during and after the birth of the child will be needed but the rate of survival will remain negligible. However, the report also mentioned that pregnancy is not dangerous for the woman.

“It wasn’t an open and shut case where there is definite answers for survival of the child and harm to mother. Moreover, since the report mentioned no risk to the mother, we explained the board about quality of life of the mother and child and effectiveness of corrective surgeries. After an hour, the board approved abortion,” said Sneha Mukherjee, lawyer of the petitioner.

Experts from BJ Medical College said they were bound by the law to submit the report in the framework of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971. “We cannot suggest if the SC should or shouldn’t allow abortion. Even in this case, we informed the board about the feasibility of child survival but also made it clear that there was no physical danger to the mother’s life because there is none,” said one of the expert committee members.

The expert added that interpretation of the report needs to include the woman’s mental health, family’s financial capability and availability of medical resources before taking a decision.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 00:19 IST