Supreme Court Rejects Woman's Plea To Abort 26-Week Pregnancy

The woman, who has two children, suffers from post-partum psychosis and had sought abortion as she said she could not raise a third child 'emotionally, financially and mentally'. The Apex Court said she was at the liberty to put the child up for adoption after the birth.

Supreme Court

In a case that led to debates over the right of a woman over her body and the rights of an unborn foetus, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition filed by a woman to abort her 26-week pregnancy. 

The SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said that it could not permit abortion as medical assessments showed no threat to the pregnant woman or any defect in the foetus. 

The Apex Court directed the state to bear all the medical costs and said that it would be up to the woman to keep the child or put them up for abortion. 

The case concerns a 27-year-old married woman with two children who is currently 26-weeks pregnant. She has sought abortion on the grounds that she does not wish to continue the pregnancy as she is mentally unwell. She said she could not raise a third child "emotionally, financially and mentally". The medical board looking into the case confirmed that she has post-partum psychosis. 

The Cleveland Clinic describes post-partum depression, which occurs after childbirth, as rare but dangerous and can cause "hallucinations, delusions, paranoia or other behaviour changes" and can drive the woman to harm self or the child. 

Ruling against the abortion in the case, Chandrachud said that since the pregnancy is 26 weeks and five days, permitting an abortion in the absence of any threat to woman or foetus would violate the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, according to Live Law.

As per the MTP Act, abortions are permitted with the medical approval of one doctor up to 20 weeks and with the approval of two doctors up to 24 weeks. 

Earlier, the Supreme Court had on October 9 allowed the woman to abort her pregnancy. A day later, however, All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) authorities wrote to Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati —who represented the government in the matter— to say that the foetus appeared to be "viable" and had a "strong possibility of survival". Following this, the case was referred to a two-judge bench that pronounced a split verdict on the Centre's plea for recall of its October 9 order. While Justice Hima Kohli ruled the abortion should not be allowed, Justice BV Nagarathna ruled it should be allowed. 

Following the split verdict, the matter reached Chandrachud who observed that there was a need to "balance out the rights of the unborn child".

"There is no doubt that our law is far ahead of other countries. We will not have a Roe versus Wade situation here. Our law is liberal and pro-choice," observed Chandrachud. 

The hearing for the case began on Monday in which the Supreme Court heard the petitioner and the state. Eventually, the court disallowed the woman from abortion the pregnancy.