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There can be no restriction on a woman’s right to exercise her reproductive choice: Kerala HC

The bench of Justice V G Arun issued the order on November 2 while considering the plea of an MBA student, who sought an order to medically terminate the pregnancy which is almost 27 weeks gestation.

The Kerala High Court (file)

Observing that there can be no restriction on a woman’s right to exercise her reproductive choice to either procreate or to abstain from procreating, the Kerala High Court has allowed a 23-year-old college student to undergo termination of pregnancy.

The bench of Justice V G Arun issued the order on November 2 while considering the plea of an MBA student, who sought an order to medically terminate the pregnancy which is almost 27 weeks gestation. As pregnancy is in such an advanced stage, none of the hospitals were prepared to terminate the pregnancy, in view of the interdiction contained under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Hence, she sought the court intervention.

The woman told the court that she became pregnant due to failure of the contraceptives used in her consensual relationship with her classmate. The friend, with whom she was in a relationship, left the country for higher studies, adding more to her woes.

The woman said she became aware of her pregnancy only on October 25 when an ultra sound scan was conducted on the advice of the doctor after she had irregular menstrual periods and other physical discomforts. She had been suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Disease, a condition characterised by irregular menstrual periods.

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Earlier, the high court had ordered the constitution of a medical board to examine the woman and to report about the medical process best suited to terminate the pregnancy, the possibility of child being born alive; and any other issues, which the medical board regards relevant in such matters.

The medical board had reported to the court to proceed with the second trimester pregnancy MTP with risks associated with mother and baby. The woman, who wants to continue her education, was willing to face the risks associated with the termination of pregnancy.

Permitting the woman to get her pregnancy terminated at any of the hospitals having the facilities mandated by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the judge said, “There can be no restriction on a woman’s right to exercise her reproductive choice to either procreate or to abstain from procreating. A woman’s right to make reproductive choice being a dimension of her personal liberty, as understood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

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The court also made a reference to a 2016 verdict of Mumbai high court which said, “An abortion is a carefully considered decision taken by a woman who fears that the welfare of the child she already has, and of other members of the household that she is obliged to care for with limited financial and other resources, may be compromised by the birth of another child. These are decisions taken by responsible women who have few other options. They are women who would ideally have preferred to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, but were unable to do so. If a woman does not want to continue with the pregnancy, then forcing her to do so represents a violation of the woman’s bodily integrity and aggravates her mental trauma which would be deleterious to her mental health.”

First published on: 05-11-2022 at 12:00 IST
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