Observing that forcing a woman to carry on with an unwanted pregnancy amounts to causing grave injury to her mental health, the Bombay High Court recently directed authorities at the Thane prison to refer a pregnant undertrial to the civil hospital for obtaining doctors’ opinion on a medical termination of the pregnancy.
A bench of Justice V K Tahilramani and Justice Mridula Bhatkar sought a reply from the prison authorities specifying the progress made in the matter along with her statement of consent for wanting to undergo the procedure.
The court also questioned why the procedure had not been carried out earlier as “the prisoner in her statement recorded by the prison authorities has given detailed reasons why she wishes to terminate her pregnancy”. The woman is presently over 15 weeks pregnant.
The directions came while the bench was hearing a suo motu PIL on the health facilities for women prisoners in the state.
Since the woman and the foetus do not suffer from any apparent health risks, and as the woman is past the 12 weeks stage of pregnancy — the permissible limit for undergoing an abortion as per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act — she now requires the opinion of two registered doctors.
The medical officer attached to the Thane prison told the court that though the pregnancy was revealed at the time of a medical test of the undertrial, it could not be terminated within 12 weeks she did not state her consent for the abortion then.
“Once two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion that the pregnancy should be terminated, then the termination of pregnancy would immediately be carried out. We may state that forcing a woman to carry on with an unwanted pregnancy may amount to causing grave injury to her mental health which would be covered by Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,” said the High Court.
Earlier this month, the amicus curiae appointed by the court to assist it on the PIL had brought to light the case of this undertrial. The woman was arrested on June 25. When the amicus visited the Thane prison earlier this month, the woman told her of her pregnancy and her wish to terminate it. She said that though she had informed the jail authorities, “no steps were being taken in this regard.”
The woman was brought before the court and it was revealed that she already had a five-year-old child from her husband. However, after her husband died four years ago, she was in a relationship with another man and was bearing his child. This man, however, abandoned her and she wanted to terminate the pregnancy. The HC is likely to take up the matter next on September 6.