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Delhi HC denies nod to woman for termination of 26-week pregnancy

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday denied permission to a 28-year-old woman to terminate her 26-week pregnancy citing “judicial conscience” and highlighting the lack of mechanisms to ensure the biological father shares equal social castigation women face in such cases.

The petitioner claimed she was impregnated by her friend while she was going through divorce with her estranged husband.

A division bench of Justices A S Gadkari and Neela Gokhale expressed anguish over the difficult circumstances in which women such as the petitioner find themselves while highlighting the lack of effective mechanisms to ensure that the biological father shares equal responsibility.

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The bench stated its “judicial conscience” does not allow it to grant permission for termination of pregnancy and noted that “social stigma” appears to be the main reason behind the pregnancy termination request.

The woman had sought termination of the “unwanted” pregnancy. As per the plea, she has a four-year-old daughter and is going through divorce proceedings with her estranged husband. The woman is in a relationship with a friend with whom she got pregnant.

The bench said it was conscious of the right of the petitioner to reproductive freedom, her autonomy over her body and her right of choice, however, the medical board has specifically said that she was not fit for termination of pregnancy at this stage.

The high court noted that the main reason the woman wants to terminate the pregnancy appears to be fear of social stigma in society coupled with her economic condition.

However, these grounds cannot be taken as an exception where termination can be permitted, it added.

“Our judicial conscience does not permit us to grant permission to the petitioner to medically terminate the pregnancy at this stage. Permission is accordingly denied.

“We do want to express our anguish for the difficult circumstances in which women such as the petitioner find themselves, especially in the absence of any effective mechanism to ensure that the biological father shares equal pain, responsibility, societal reproach and social castigation, meted out to women in such cases,” the high court said.

It expressed optimism that the government will ensure proactive measures to address such complexities.

The bench said once the baby is born, the petitioner could put it up for adoption.

The woman stated due to stress in her personal life she had not given much attention when she missed her menstrual cycles and hence learnt of her pregnancy only at a later stage.

“If the petitioner is made to go through the unwanted pregnancy, then there is likelihood hood of mental and physical anguish and trauma,” the plea said.

Under the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the court’s nod is required to terminate a pregnancy beyond the 24-week gestation period.

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