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Foetal Viability and Rights of Unborn Child

Why is it in the news?

  • The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case involving a 27-year-old married woman seeking permission to terminate her 26-week pregnancy.
  • The woman argues that her pregnancy was unplanned, and her family’s income cannot support another child. Further, she is also dealing with postpartum depression after her second child’s birth.

More about the news

  • Initially, a two-judge Bench allowed the termination, reasoning that an unwanted pregnancy due to contraceptive failure is similar to a forced pregnancy.
  • AIIMS later reported that the foetus was “currently viable,” raising questions about foeticide before termination.
  • The case was transferred to a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, which called for a fresh medical report.
  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP Act) in India allows termination in different stages of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of forced pregnancies or substantial foetal abnormalities.
  • The court has allowed terminations beyond 26 weeks in some cases, but this case involves consensual conception, which distinguishes it.
  • The discussion in court has revolved around balancing a woman’s right to abortion and the rights of the unborn child.
  • The Indian legal system generally prioritizes a woman’s right to choose in matters of abortion and laws related to succession and sex-determination of foetuses consider the rights of the unborn child.
  • While the MTP Act gives doctors the authority to decide on terminations after 20 weeks, women often approach the court due to legislative gaps.
  • The case highlights the need for clarity in the legal framework regarding abortion, particularly in cases of late-term pregnancies.
  • Though, the rights of the unborn child have been addressed in various laws and court rulings, but the emphasis is on women’s reproductive autonomy.

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