The Supreme Court today refused to allow a woman, who is in her 26th week of pregnancy, to abort her foetus on the ground that it suffered from ‘down syndrome’, saying “we have a life in our hands”. The apex court said that as per a report of the medical board constituted to examine the 37-year-old woman, there was no physical risk to the mother in continuation of pregnancy.
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A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L N Rao observed that though “everybody knows that children with down syndrome are undoubtedly less intelligent, but they are fine people.” The bench said as per the report, the foetus is “likely to have mental and physical challenges” but the advise of the doctors does not warrant termination of pregnancy. “With this report, we don’t think we are going to allow termination of pregnancy. We have a life in our hands,” the bench said.
“In these circumstances, as per the present advise, it is not possible to grant permission to terminate the pregnancy,” the court said. Down syndrome is a congenital disorder which causes intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities.
The bench had on February 23 constituted a medical board comprising doctors of Mumbai-based KEM Hospital to examine the woman and file a report about her condition and advisability of permitting medical termination of pregnancy forthwith. The woman, a resident of Maharashtra, had approached the apex court seeking nod to terminate her pregnancy saying that apart from serious mental and physical health problems for the child on birth, even her life was in danger.
The law prohibits termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks even if there is a fatal risk to the mother and the foetus.
The woman had said in her plea that this disorder could cause physical and mental retardation and the child would not be able to lead a normal and healthy life. In a separate case, the apex court had on February 7 allowed a 22-year-old woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy on the ground that it would endanger her life.
In another case, the apex court in January had allowed a Mumbai-based woman, who was in her 24th week of pregnancy, to terminate her pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act while taking into consideration the report of a hospital which had suggested that the foetus would not be able to survive without the skull.