Being financially unsound could be no ground for allowing abortion of a pregnancy, which is more than 20 weeks, ruled the Bombay High Court on Tuesday. The HC pronounced the significant ruling while denying permission to a woman, who sought to medically terminate her 21 weeks pregnancy.
The woman, 39, a resident of Ratnagiri, claimed to be financially weak and "not in a position" to become a mother at this stage in her life. She had accordingly moved the bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla seeking to abort the foetus.
As per procedure, her case was referred to a medical board in Ratnagiri, seeking an expert's opinion on whether to allow the abortion or not.
The medical board comprising of seven experts from Civil Hospital, Ratnagiri, in their report opined that there were no anomalies in the foetus. The board further told the judges that the woman did not disclose all the facts relating to her pregnancy.
The woman's case was that she learnt about her pregnancy at a later stage since her period cycle was irregular.
However, the bench noted that the woman learnt about the pregnancy, when her foetus was 18 weeks old. It further took into account the fact that she approached the court only after her pregnancy crossed the mandatory 20 weeks limit.
Upon being asked, the woman cited the lockdown rules that barred movement. However, her excuse was trashed by the board saying that obstetrics and gynaecologists were functioning 24x7 even during the lockdown.
Having considered the contentions, the judges said, "We are of the considered view that the reasons for medical termination of pregnancy beyond the statutory limit of 20 weeks viz. that the woman and her family are in no condition financially and/or that she would be of an advanced age of 39 years to be mentally prepared to be a mother are not valid grounds for termination of pregnancy."
While referring to a Supreme Court judgment, the judges said, "The SC has observed that a pregnant woman has a personal autonomy to exercise her reproductive choice and terminate her pregnancy. This would necessarily be exercisable within the statutory limit of 20 weeks."
"Upon a thorough consideration of the matter as well as giving due consideration to the report of the medical board, she cannot be allowed to terminate her pregnancy which is beyond 20 weeks," the bench said in its 27-page judgment.