THE STATE Thursday informed the Bombay High Court that it had allowed an undertrial prisoner who was over 15 weeks pregnant to terminate her pregnancy after she said she did not wish to bear the baby.
A bench had earlier passed orders asking the chief medical officer of Thane Prisons to file a progress report in this regard. Since the woman and the foetus did not suffer from any apparent health risk and she was past the 12-week stage of pregnancy — the permissible limit for abortion under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act — the court told the jail authorities to refer her case to a civil hospital and seek the opinion of two registered doctors.
On Thursday, the chief medical officer submitted a progress report through public prosecutor Arfan Sait, which stated that the woman had been admitted to a hospital on September 3 and her pregnancy terminated on September 4. “She is currently under observation and is recovering,” said Sait.
The court also approved preliminary guidelines to extend health facilities to women prisoners. The bench directed the prison authorities to make a ‘complete’ medical test of women inmates mandatory before they are lodged in jail. The court further said that a second medical test for all inmates be carried out after 25 days to rule out any ambiguity.
The bench said it should be made easier for women prisoners to communicate their grievances and give consent to receiving medical assistance. Earlier this month, the amicus curiae appointed by the court had brought to light the case of this undertrial. The woman was arrested on June 25, when she was around seven weeks pregnant. 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 taken in this regard.” It was later revealed that she already had a five-year-old child from her husband. However, after her husband passed away four years ago, she got into a relationship with another man and was now bearing his child. This man, however, had abandoned her and she wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
The bench had earlier observed that forcing the woman to carry on with the unwanted pregnancy amounted to causing grave injury to her mental health. The matter is likely to come up for further hearing on September 19.