Noting that reproductive choice is a dimension of personal liberty which is enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, Delhi High Court allowed a woman to terminate her pregnancy in the 28th week on account of substantial foetal abnormality.
Justice Jyoti Singh allowed the woman’s petition noting that allowing the pregnancy to continue would have a deleterious impact on the petitioner’s mental health. The bench added that the woman cannot be deprived of the freedom to take a decision to continue or not to continue with the pregnancy in view of the medical board’s opinion.
The court took note of the medical experts’ opinion that the lack of compatibility of the foetus with a healthy and normal life was “looming large”.
The medical experts said that the child would require cardiac surgery in the initial stage of life as well as repeat cardiac surgeries in late adolescence or adulthood, leaving his/her entire life dependent on the clinical condition and quality of medical care.
The bench observed that the child would be exposed to intra and post-operative complications and may lead to further complexities which would adversely impact the quality of life. The child was likely to have an average physical growth came with a caveat that the surgical repair is successful, opined the medical experts.
“The petitioner, in my view, is justified in contending that continuing with the pregnancy, once it is known that the foetus suffers from a rare congenital heart disease, which is a ‘substantial foetal abnormality’, with attendant complications and risks, would have a deleterious impact on the mental health of the petitioner,” noted Justice Singh.
The court allowed the petitioner to undergo the procedure in the medical facility of her choice and has also recorded that all the complications of the procedure are already explained to the couple.
“As repeatedly held by the Courts… reproductive choice is a facet of reproductive rights of a woman and a dimension of her ‘personal liberty’, enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and thus the petitioner cannot be deprived of the freedom to take a decision to continue or not to continue with the pregnancy, in the backdrop of the foetal abnormalities brought forth in the Medical Opinion of the Board,” said the Delhi High Court order dated December 31, 2021.
Urging the court to permit her the termination of pregnancy, she has submitted the contention that it would put her through financial, emotional as well as physical strain
On December 22, the court directed AIIMS to set up a medical board at the earliest to examine the woman.