The Delhi High Court ruled that an unwed woman whose pregnancy arises from a consensual relationship is not covered by the 2003 rules of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Rules while denying permission to a 25-year-old woman to abort her almost 24 weeks pregnancy. The high court's order came on a woman's plea who sought permission for abortion after her partner refused to marry her.
The high court said it could not go beyond the law since the MTP Rules did not permit unmarried women to terminate their pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. According to the MTP Rules the termination of the pregnancy upto 24 weeks applies only to women who are survivors of sexual assault, rape, or incest, minors, whose marital status changes during an ongoing pregnancy, women with major physical disabilities, are mentally ill, discovered that the foetus has malformation or pregnant women in disaster or emergency situations.
In her plea, apart from seeking permission to terminate her pregnancy, the woman sought the inclusion of unmarried women within the ambit of the existing rules. The high court's division bench then issued notice to Delhi's Health and Family Welfare Department directing it to file its response on this plea by August 26.
BOOM recaps the hearing that took place on Friday before the live stream of the hearing was interrupted at the instance of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma.
Don't Abort. Get The Child Adopted: Delhi High Court
The division bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad on Friday had urged the woman—through her counsel Amit Mishra—to reconsider terminating the pregnancy and instead consider giving up the child for adoption post its birth. The high court even gave the woman a few hours to reconsider before hearing the matter again in the post-lunch session.
The woman is currently 23 weeks pregnant and has three days left till the 24-week deadline.
"It will amount to virtually killing the child," the bench had said.
When the hearing resumed in the post-lunch session, the woman was firm in her decision to terminate her pregnancy. Mishra submitted that the woman was forced to take judicial recourse because she is unmarried. Had she been a widow or any other category as covered by the rules, she could have simply walked up to a private clinic and terminated her pregnancy.
"Why are you killing the child? There are big queues for adoptions," Chief Justice Sharma had said urging the woman to reconsider. To this, Mishra submitted that the woman was 25-year-old unmarried and thus not physically/mentally/financially fit to raise the child or deal with the social stigma that would come if she carried the pregnancy to full-term.
"We are not forcing her to raise the child. We will ensure she goes to a good hospital. Her whereabouts will be unknown. You give birth and return. If the government doesn't pay, I am here to pay," Chief Justice Sharma had said.
The woman may be coming to the courts at the last minute because it could be that she was ditched at the last minute, Mishra said as he continued asserting the woman's case. She has reproductive rights, Mishra added.
"If she can carry the child for 24 weeks then why not for a few more weeks?" Chief Justice Sharma said. To which, the counsel replied that delivery happens at 38 or 39 weeks.
Before the live stream of the hearing was interrupted at Chief Justice Sharma's insistence, the bench had said, "law did not permit killing the child."
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