Choice to terminate late pregnancy is mother's, not medical board

Court Can’t Abrogate Her Right: Bombay High Court Allows Medical Termination of 33-Week Pregnancy

Choice to terminate late pregnancy is mother's, not medical board

The decision to terminate a pregnancy is the woman’s alone after a severe foetal abnormality is found irrespective of the length of the pregnancy, the Bombay High Court held while allowing a married woman to terminate her 33-week pregnancy against the advice of the Medical Board. A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Justice SG Dige observed:

“The right to choose is the Petitioner’s. It is not the right of the Medica lBoard. And it is also not the right of the Court to abrogate the Petitioner’s rights once they are found to fall within the contemplation of the law.”

Refusing termination of pregnancy only on grounds of delay would not only be condemning the foetus to a less than optimal life but would also be condemning the mother to a future that will almost certainly rob her of every positive attribute of parenthood, the High Court said."It would be a denial of her right to dignity, and her reproductive and decisional autonomy. The mother knows today there is no possibility of having a normal healthy baby at the end of this delivery," the court said."Accepting the Medical Board's view is not just to condemn the foetus to a substandard life but is to force on the petitioner and her husband an unhappy and traumatic parenthood. The effect on them and their family cannot even be imagined," it added.The petitioner's foetus is detected with both microcephaly and lissencephaly, and this is what the future portends, the bench said.Asserting that the rights of the woman should never be compromised in the "blind application of a statute", the court said, "Justice may have to be blindfolded; it can never be allowed to be blindsided. We are agnostic about the relative positions of parties. We can never be agnostic about where justice needs to be delivered." It said cases such as this often raise profound moral questions and dilemmas, but it is immutable that the "arc of the moral universe always bends towards justice".