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Kerala HC: Medical Termination of Pregnancy Due to Poverty or Social Stigma Violates Statutory Provisions

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Kerala HC Law Insider

Sarthak Umang

Published on: 11 November 2022 at 20:57 IST

Kerala High Court denied the termination of pregnancy for a 21-year-old while observing that breaching statutory provisions is not justifiable on the grounds of poverty or social stigma.

The petitioner was a 21-year-old unmarried woman who had been in a live-in relationship with Sanjay since November 17, 2021, and had passed the 28-week gestation period.She further submitted before the court that her family is economically backward and that the birth of a child before her marriage would adversely affect her future as well as the pride of the family.

The petitioner admitted that the pregnancy was from a consensual relationship with Sanjay, Sanjay had promised that he would convert to Islam and marry her, but later refused to marry unless his demand for dowry was met, petitioner, alleged that Sanjay assaulted her in an inebriated state and drove her off from his house.

Justice VG Arun ordered that the superintendent of SAT hospital form a medical board to examine the petitioner.The board submitted a report before the Kerala high court, and ultrasound findings show that there are no foetal or maternal complications. The medical board concluded that medical termination should be avoided due to the risk to the baby.

The HC said in its order that the Supreme Court has declared a woman’s right to make a reproductive choice to be a dimension of her personal liberty.

The Kerala High Court is debating whether such liberty can violate the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act when neither the pregnant woman nor the fetus has a medical emergency and the pregnancy was being well cared for by the prospective mother until she approached this court.

The Kerala High Court, after referring to the 2021 amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, said that “thus, after the amendment, medical termination is not permissible when the pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks.”

Section 3(2B), the provision relating to the length of pregnancy, will not apply when the termination is necessitated by the diagnosis of any of the substantial foetal abnormalities by a Medical Board. In this case, the Medical Board has stated unequivocally that the pregnancy is 28 weeks long with no foetal or maternal complications.

Justice VG Arun stated that economic backwardness and social stigma can’t allow it to transgress the provisions of the act and can’t compel this court to transgress the statutory prohibition and grant permission for medical termination of pregnancy.