Relying on a medical board's report, the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a woman's plea seeking termination of her foetus fearing genetic disorder.
The 37-year-old woman wanted to abort her 23-week-old foetus fearing it suffered from Down syndrome. However, the court said that there was no danger involved to the life of the mother and child if the pregnancy was continued.
A division bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao in an interim order took note of the report that the foetus, which was now 26 weeks old, has chances of surviving.
It said: "In these circumstances, it is not possible to grant permission to terminate the life of the foetus."
The court said as per the report by the medical board, "mother has no physical risk in continuation of pregnancy. As far as foetus is concerned, the baby born with Down syndrome was likely to have mental and physical challenges."
The report clearly did not (possibly could not) observe that this particular foetus would have severe mental and physical challenges, said the bench.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves sought termination of the foetus, saying as per the medical report the child was likely to have severe mental and physical challenges.
The Centre also opposed the plea of the woman, saying the board did not favour abortion.
The bench observed that it was sad that a mother has to bring up a severely mentally retarded child.
Down syndrome is a congenital disorder which causes intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities.
Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, a pregnancy could be terminated in the normal course if it was up to 12 weeks old.
Pregnancies between 12 to 20 weeks can be terminated if in the opinion of two doctors the continuation of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman.
In her plea, the mother-to-be said that the law allowed termination of pregnancy in extreme cases if it caused grave injury to the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman and if there was a substantial risk of the child suffering from physical and mental abnormalities after birth.
She contended that Down syndrome was not curable and could cause physical and mental retardation to the child who would not have a normal and healthy life.