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HC refuses to permit unmarried woman to terminate pregnancy at 23 weeks

Source: PTI
July 16, 2022 15:00 IST
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The Delhi high court has refused to allow an unmarried woman to undergo medical termination of pregnancy at 23 weeks, observing it is not permitted under the abortion law after 20 weeks for pregnancy arising out of a consensual relationship.

It, however, has sought the Centre's response on the woman's contention that the exclusion of unmarried women from being allowed to undergo medical termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks, was discriminatory.

The petitioner, a 25-year-old woman, who would complete 24 weeks of gestation on July 18, told the court that her partner, with whom she was in a consensual relationship, had refused to marry her.

 

She stressed that giving birth out of wedlock would cause her psychological agony as well as social stigma and she was not mentally prepared to be a mother.

A bench of the high court's Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, while dealing with the plea, said the court cannot go beyond the statute while exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution.

"The petitioner, who is an unmarried woman and whose pregnancy arises out of a consensual relationship, is clearly not covered by any of the clauses under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003," the court noted in its order dated July 15.

"As of today, Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 (which excludes unmarried women) stands, and this court, while exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, 1950, cannot go beyond the statute,” it said.

During the hearing on Friday, the court had said that it would not permit the petitioner to undergo medical termination of pregnancy at 23 weeks, observing it virtually amounts to killing the foetus.

The high court noted that the law granted time to unmarried women to undergo the procedure of medical termination of pregnancy and the legislature has "purposefully excluded consensual relationship" from the category of cases where termination is permissible after 20 weeks and up to 24 weeks.

It suggested that the petitioner can be kept "somewhere safe" until she delivers the child who can subsequently be given up for adoption.

"We will ensure that the girl is kept somewhere safe and she can deliver and go. There is a big queue for adoption," the court had said.

After the lawyer turned down the court's suggestion, it said that it would pass an order on the petition.

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