Bombay HC Permits 19-Year-Old to Terminate 26-Week Pregnancy Due to Mental Health Risks

Bombay HC Permits 19-Year-Old to Terminate 26-Week Pregnancy Due to Mental Health Risks

Bombay HC Permits 19-Year-Old to Terminate 26-Week Pregnancy Due to Mental Health Risks

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In a landmark ruling, the Bombay High Court vacation bench allowed a 19-year-old woman to terminate her 26-week pregnancy, citing grave mental health risks as diagnosed by a Medical Board. The court emphasized the woman’s reproductive autonomy, stating that the consent of her partner or parents was not relevant.

The decision was based on an April Supreme Court judgment affirming that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act supports the personal choice of the pregnant individual regarding termination. The division bench of Justices N R Borkar and Somasekhar Sundaresan asserted that the petitioner’s right to make an autonomous choice about her body warranted the court’s acceptance.

The pregnancy resulted from a consensual relationship, and the fetal health was not compromised. The State had argued that the partner’s opinion was significant due to the consensual nature of the relationship. However, the court, referencing the Supreme Court’s ruling, dismissed this claim, affirming that the partner has no stake in the woman’s reproductive decisions.

The petitioner, from a lower-income background, highlighted the severe psychological effects and social stigma associated with continuing the pregnancy as primary reasons for seeking termination. The court acknowledged these concerns, noting that while there was no congenital abnormality, the law requires a Medical Board’s approval and a court order for terminations beyond 24 weeks.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Tejesh Dande, presented a private medical report to the court, which lacked consideration of her emotional and mental health. Consequently, the court requested an evaluation from the Medical Board of BJ Govt Medical and Sassoon General Hospital, Pune. The Board’s report, dated May 28, confirmed that while the petitioner was physically fit for an MTP, her psychological condition and socio-economic circumstances justified the termination to prevent grave psychological injury.

The HC emphasized that under section 3(2)(b)(i) of the MTP Act, termination is permissible if a woman’s physical and mental health are at risk. The court clarified that mental health considerations extend beyond cases of sexual assault. Under section 3(4)(b), a pregnancy can only be terminated with the woman’s consent, which the court verified through a videoconference.

In line with a recent Supreme Court judgment, the HC stressed the importance of considering the mental health impact in the Medical Board’s report and prioritizing the woman’s consent. The court permitted the termination to take place at Sassoon Hospital, ensuring sensitive treatment and handling of the petitioner, with a focus on her emotional and mental well-being.