In the absence of any threat to the mother’s life or health, the Kerala High Court recently held that when a medical board determines that terminating a pregnancy may result in a live baby and that the foetal abnormalities diagnosed are not lethal, the mother’s reproductive choice must yield to the unborn’s right to life.
A pregnant woman with a gestation of roughly 31 weeks requested that the respondents order her pregnancy to be terminated. Dismissing the plea for 31-week pregnancy termination, Justice P.B Suresh Kumar stated that-
Unborn children have lives and rights of their own, and their rights are recognised by law. No, the unborn’s right to life can not be equated with the mother’s fundamental right to life provided by Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act’s scheme was that a pregnancy could not be medically terminated after 20 weeks, even if the circumstances listed in Section 3 (2) were present.
The petitioner was represented by P.T Mohankumar, an advocate. She claimed that, despite the fact that significant foetal abnormalities had been discovered, the defendants refused to terminate the pregnancy since the time restriction for termination set forth in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 had passed.
As a result, the Superintendent of Alappuzha Medical College was ordered to assemble a medical board, conduct a medical board, conduct a medical examination of the petitioner, and submit a medical report during the proceedings.
The medical board then issued a report noting that terminating the pregnancy could result in a live baby who would require protracted hospitalisation due to preterm, and hence advised that the pregnancy be continued. In view of the above-mentioned findings, the petitioner stated that the foetal anomalies could not be challenged.
According to Section 3 (2) of the MTP Act, a pregnancy can be medically terminated only if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the pregnant woman’s life or cause grave injury to her physical or mental health, or if there is a substantial risk that the child would be born with serious physical or mental abnormalities that would be seriously harmful to the child.
As a result, it was determined that, in the absence of any threat to the mother’s life or health, when a duly constituted Medical Board determines that the stage of pregnancy is such that it may result in a live baby and that the foetal abnormalities diagnosed are not lethal, the mother’s reproductive choice, which is a facet of the fundamental right guaranteed to her under Article 21 of the Constitution, is protected.