The Bombay High Court recently made a distinction between “mental health” and “mental disease,” allowing an 18-year-old woman to terminate an unwanted 26-week pregnancy on the grounds that continuing the pregnancy would be harmful to her mental health.
Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar used the judgement in Sidra Mehboob Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra, among other rulings, to reach the conclusion that mental health is a broad notion that includes mental disease.
As a result, even if they sounded similar, the terms mental health and mental disease are not interchangeable, according to the Court.
The Court was hearing a petition from an unmarried 18-year-old woman with a well-defined socioeconomic background. The Court noted that forcing a young girl to have an unwanted child could have terrible effects for the rest of her life and for her family.
Despite a report from the Medical Board stating that there are no mental or medical reasons for termination, the order was passed. The Board was formed expressly to assess the pregnant woman’s physical and emotional health.
The study concluded that termination of pregnancy was not necessary in this case because the patient’s mental condition did not meet the threshold of the substantial danger of inflicting grave mental harm to the mother.
The woman’s socioeconomic background was not taken into account by the Medical Board in its report, according to the Court. The Court decided when considering Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971.
As quoted above, sub-section (3) of section 3 mandates that “account may be taken of the pregnant woman’s actual or reasonably foreseeable environment in determining whether continuation of the pregnancy would involve such risk of injury to the mother’s health,” which expression was elaborately explained by us in Sidra Mehboob Shaikh (supra).”
As a result, the woman was allowed to terminate her pregnancy by the Court.
The petitioner was represented by Shriram Kulkarni and Minal Havan. Uma Palsuledesai, an additional Government Pleader, appeared on behalf of the State.