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Centre moves HC to recall order allowing termination of pregnancy, cites unborn's right to life

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New Delhi, Jan 16 (PTI) The Centre has approached the Delhi High Court seeking a recall of its order allowing a widow to terminate her 29-week pregnancy, saying the child has a fair chance of survival and the court should consider protecting the right to life of the unborn infant.

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The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where the woman was medically examined, also approached the court, saying the outcome will be much better if the child is delivered at 34 weeks of pregnancy or beyond and it is advisable that the pregnancy be continued for another two-three weeks for the betterment of the health of the mother and the child.

The AIIMS, which requested the court to pass directions on further action in this regard, said according to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, termination of pregnancies beyond 24 weeks is to be done for foetuses that have significant abnormalities and "foeticide in this case is neither justified nor ethical as the foetus is grossly normal".

Relying on the medical opinion given in the case by the doctors at the AIIMS, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, represented in the court by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, submitted in its application that the present matter makes it abundantly clear that the "termination of pregnancy cannot happen unless the doctors conduct a foeticide, failing which there will be pre-term delivery with huge complications".

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Justice Subramonium Prasad, in an order passed on January 15, said the January 12 and 13 reports of the woman, who is suffering from depression, indicate that the pre-term induction of labour has a high chance of failure and may lead to caesarean section that can have serious implications on the future pregnancies of the petitioner and may also lead to significant abnormality of the foetus.

Keeping in view the health of the woman as well as the foetus, the court directed her to undergo further psychiatric evaluation and counselling on January 16, 17 and 18 at the AIIMS here.

The court listed the matter for January 19 and asked the AIIMS to place its report indicating the physical and mental health of the woman and the foetus.

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The ministry, in its application, referred to a Supreme Court judgment last year that recalled its earlier order allowing termination of a 26-week pregnancy and thereby, disallowing the termination of the pregnancy in view of a medical board's opinion.

The government said it is imperative for the court to "consider protecting the right to life of the unborn child so that the child has a fair chance of survival. In this factual conspectus, it is imperative and necessary that the order dated January 4 of this court is recalled".

On January 4, the court had allowed the widow, suffering from depression, to abort her then 29-week foetus as the continuation of the pregnancy could have affected her mental health, and observed that the right to reproductive choice also includes the right not to procreate.

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The court had noted that there was a change in the marital status of the woman, who lost her husband on October 19, 2023 and came to know about her pregnancy on October 31, 2023.

It had said the woman should be permitted to terminate her pregnancy because allowing her to continue with it can impair her mental stability as she was showing suicidal tendencies.

The woman, who got married in February 2023, lost her husband in October after which she moved to her parents' house and got to know that she was 20 weeks pregnant.

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In December, she decided not to continue with her pregnancy as she was suffering from extreme trauma due to her husband's death and approached doctors to abort the foetus.

However, since the gestation period was more than 24 weeks, the permissible limit to abort a foetus, she was not granted permission for the same.

Thereafter, the woman approached the court seeking permission to medically terminate her pregnancy and a medical board was constituted to assess her health conditions.

The AIIMS, in its report, said the woman was provisionally diagnosed with depression and a differential diagnosis of adjustment disorder and added that at this juncture, it cannot be speculated whether the continuation of the pregnancy could be detrimental to the petitioner's health from a psychiatric viewpoint.

Rule 3(B) of the MTP Rules allows a woman to terminate her pregnancy of up to 24 weeks with certain conditions. PTI SKV RC

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