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Calcutta High Court Overturns Previous Order, Allows Woman to Terminate 29-Week Pregnancy

In their petition, the woman and her husband cited financial constraints, mental trauma for the mother and quality of the child’s life as their main concerns.

Prema Rajaram | CNN-News18

Updated:February 19, 2019, 6:15 PM IST
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Calcutta High Court Overturns Previous Order, Allows Woman to Terminate 29-Week Pregnancy
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Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Monday overturned a single-judge bench’s order to allow a 29-week pregnant woman to abort her foetus, which has been diagnosed with Down syndrome and other deformations of the oesophagus, heart and abdomen, including gastrointestinal malformation.

In their petition, the woman and her husband cited financial constraints, mental trauma for the mother and quality of the child’s life as their main concerns. A team of 11 doctors, who were part of the medical board as per the court’s instructions, said that the child could live beyond the neonatal stage after various reconstructive surgeries.

A single bench of Calcutta High court had in January ruled that the right of the foetus to live cannot be ignored.

The petitioners then approached division bench of acting Chief Justice Biswanath Sommader and Justice Arindam Mukherjee. Their lawyers pleaded for abortion on the grounds that apart from mental trauma of the mother, which the medical board had not taken into account, the father as a petitioner would face financial constraints too. The lawyers also pointed out that the couple has a 14-year-old daughter as well and the husband is a daily wage worker without any fixed income.

The lawyers put forward several other arguments which went in the petitioners’ favour eventually. “We argued in court that the mother has the right of her reproductive choice and that her husband is in full support of the abortion. When the State is not taking the entire responsibility of the welfare of the child, then forcing upon the lady to give birth will lead to severe mental trauma for the mother. On this premise, the court ruled that the definition of life needs to be given a wider interpretation,” Apalav Basu, the couple’s lawyer.

The court has said that the medical termination of the foetus should take place in a registered private clinic. Section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 states that abortion can be done within 20 weeks of pregnancy and only when the mother’s life is at risk.

In cases where the foetus is likely to be a stillborn child and the mother’s life is endangered, an abortion can be conducted. In this case, however, the couple was informed of the deformities of the foetus after the 20th week of the pregnancy.

The question now is, how safe is the mother as she is in her 29th week of pregnancy? “There might be complications for the mother such as excessive bleeding and uterine rupture. Twenty nine weeks is a higher gestation period for termination of pregnancy, but this is an exceptional landmark decision. Considering the risk and beneficial ratio, it is justified to terminate the pregnancy,” said Manjari Chatterjee, a gynecologist and obstetrician with CMRI.
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