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“The Supreme Court expressed its moral opposition to judicially ordering the termination of a fetus in the womb,” stated on Thursday. This stance comes as the Court grapples with the ethical debate of “pro-life versus pro-choice” in a case involving a viable and healthy fetus, over 26 weeks into gestation, carried by a married woman who is resolute in terminating the pregnancy.
This situation arose from the case of a married woman who was determined to terminate her pregnancy and who had approached the top court earlier this month. She cited the unawareness of her third pregnancy due to a condition called lactational amenorrhea, along with postpartum depression and financial difficulties. The bench, consisting of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, highlighted that her medical records did not provide clear information about her medical conditions, the nature of the ailment, and the specific conditions for which the prescribed drugs were advised.”
CJI Chandrachud’s Remarks
Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud remarked on October 13th that India’s abortion law is progressive, supports a woman’s right to choose, and surpasses that of many other countries. This statement was made during a hearing regarding a married woman’s request to medically terminate her 26-week pregnancy. CJI Chandrachud emphasized in court, “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.”
This comment by CJI Chandrachud was in response to the arguments presented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who highlighted that the provisions in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act permit women to choose abortion even after the 24-week limit if a board of doctors determines that the continuation of the pregnancy poses a risk to her life or if a significant anomaly is medically identified in the fetus.
However, Ms. Bhati argued that in this particular instance, the woman in question is married and it is her third pregnancy. Doctors have indicated that there is a “viable baby” if she chooses to continue the pregnancy to full term. On the other hand, the woman’s representative presented medical prescriptions purportedly demonstrating that she has been struggling with postpartum psychosis since October of the previous year, shortly after her second pregnancy. He contended that the medications she is taking to address her condition are not suitable for her current pregnancy.
The court decided to have the prescriptions examined by a medical board at AIIMS. The Bench instructed the board to conduct an impartial assessment to determine if there were alternative medications available that were “compatible with her pregnancy, in order to safeguard both the well-being of the woman and the fetus.”
On Thursday, the Supreme Court granted a 27-year-old woman a 24-hour period to reevaluate her request for an immediate termination of her 26-week pregnancy. This decision came a day after a two-judge panel expressed strong differences of opinion on the matter.
On Friday, the Supreme Court called for a new medical report to assess both the health of the fetus and the medical condition of the married woman. This request followed the woman’s steadfast insistence on the immediate termination of her 26-week pregnancy, even after being advised by the Court to reconsider her decision.
The next hearing for this case has been rescheduled to October 16, a week after the Court initially granted approval for the abortion but subsequently put it on hold due to conflicting opinions within the two-judge panel.