The Bombay High Court allowed to terminate 32-week-pregnancy against the advice of Medical Board and held that a decision to terminate the pregnancy was the women’s alone decision, she had the right to choose whether to continue her pregnancy or not after the foetus was detected with severe abnormalities.

The Bench of Justice G.S. Patel and Justice S.G. Dige said that given the severe foetal abnormalities, the length of the pregnancy did not matter and observed that “The Petitioner takes an informed decision. It is not an easy one. But that decision is hers, and hers alone to make, once the conditions in the statute are met. The right to choose is the Petitioner’s. It is not the right of the Medical Board.”

The Bench observed “It would be a denial of her right to dignity, and her reproductive and decisional autonomy. The mother knows today that there is no possibility of having a normal healthy baby at the end of this delivery.”

In this case, the woman had approached the High Court seeking to terminate her 32-week pregnancy after a sonography revealed the foetus suffered from multiple anomalies like microcephaly and lissencephaly. Mild uteroplacental insufficiency was also found.

The Medical Board of Sassoon Hospital, Pune opined that deformity being correctable at government and major municipal Corporation hospitals free of cost and considering the advanced gestational age, the Medical Termination of pregnancy was not recommended under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

Advocate Aditi Saxena appearing for the petitioner argued that the Court was not bound by the recommendations of the Medical Board and the length of pregnancy was not a criterion considering the severe foetal anomalies. What was to be considered was- whether there was a substantial foetal abnormality; and whether the medical termination was safe on an assessment of the mother’s mental and physical health. And, that both the conditions were satisfied.

AGP VM Mali appeared for the respondent.

The Court noted that the Medical Board had refused to terminate only on the ground of advanced stage of pregnancy and said that “In refusing a medical termination of pregnancy only on the ground of delay, this Court would not only be condemning the foetus to a less than optimal life but would also be condemning the Petitioner-mother to future that will almost certainly rob her of every positive attribute of parenthood.”

The Court further said that “Accepting the Medical Board’s view is therefore 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.”

The Court also questioned as to What would happen if the petitioner, after carrying the foetus to term, was unable to tend to the child. Would she be forced to give up a child in adoption and said that “Medical Board ignores their milieu entirely. It does not even attempt to envision the kind of life — one with no quality at all to speak of — that the Petitioner must endure for an indefinite future if the Board’s recommendation is to be followed.”

The Court allowing the petition said that “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.”

Accordingly, the petition was allowed.

Cause Title- ABC v. State of Maharashtra

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