Mother's Life Is Paramount At The Stage Of Pregnancy: Calcutta HC Allows Termination Of 29-Week Pregnancy [Read Judgment]

Mothers Life Is Paramount At The Stage Of Pregnancy: Calcutta HC Allows  Termination Of 29-Week Pregnancy [Read Judgment]

The Calcutta High Court allowed a pregnant woman's appeal seeking medical termination of her 29 week pregnancy.

The bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Arindam Mukherjee set aside the single bench order that rejected her petition to terminate her 26-week-old pregnancy (as it then was), despite the fact that the baby has a high risk of Down Syndrome, along with problems in the esophagus, heart and abdomen.
The division bench took note of the observations made by the single judge and said that allowing the pregnancy to complete its full term – in this case – will severely compromise the quality and dignity of life both in respect of the mother and her unborn child, thereby squarely affecting the protection of life and personal liberty as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The bench added:

"We must hasten to add here that even though in the case of pregnant women, there is a compelling State interest in order to protect the life of the prospective child, there is a corresponding obligation – nay, a bounden duty – on the part of the State to provide quality and dignity to such life and such quality and dignity of life should extend to the mother as well, whose life is paramount at the stage of pregnancy. On the other hand, if it is compromised, the provisions contained under section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, cannot operate as an absolute bar and can extend beyond 20 (twenty) weeks."

The court also took note of the medical report which stated that the new-born baby, apart from surgery, will have to undergo a prolonged and complicated neonatal course due to complication of pre-maturity as well as congenital malformation and the outcome of which is unpredictable. The bench said:

"It is palpably evident that the foetus in the instant case can neither evolve or develop further naturally to reverse the abnormalities already detected by medical science and produce a quality life once the child is born, which is clear from the report of the Medical Board. The mother's personal life and liberty, as understood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, is inextricably linked with that of the unborn child and will continue even after she gives birth to the child. However, her life is paramount at this stage. No foetus can evolve or develop naturally if the mother's life is not supported. The statute has clearly provided for the mother's health, strength and also life. There cannot be any manner of doubt whatsoever that in the facts of the instant case if the pregnancy is allowed to continue and the mother gives birth to the child, not only the child but the mother will have a compromised existence. Her quality of life – as it stands today – cannot be the same. Her right to live with dignity will also be squarely affected. This is more so since the State has not come forward to assure the mother – with certainty – that the compromised existence of her life and that of her unborn child shall be positively reversed, either through medical technology or by means of economic support."

The court then allowed the writ appeal granting liberty to the petitioner to seek medical termination of pregnancy in a place as specified under section 4(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, provided that the procedure itself is safe at this stage for her own life.

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