Reproductive choice a dimension of personal freedom: Delhi HC

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The Delhi High Court allowed a 28 weeks pregnant woman to undergo a medical termination of pregnancy due to a significant fetal anomaly and declared that the choice to procreate is a dimension of personal freedom enshrined in section 21 of the Constitution.

Judge Jyoti Singh, while allowing the plea of ​​the woman to undergo the procedure, said that the continuation of the pregnancy would have a deleterious impact on the applicant’s mental health and that she could not be deprived of her liberty. take the decision to continue or not to continue with the pregnancy in view of the opinion of the medical committee.

The judge observed that the lack of compatibility of the fetus with a healthy and normal life was “appearing” because, according to medical experts, the child would need heart surgery early in life as well as several cardiac surgeries to. late adolescence or adulthood, leaving one’s entire life dependent on clinical status and the quality of medical care.

He further noted that the child would be exposed to “intraoperative and postoperative complications and could lead to other complexities” which would have a negative impact on the quality of life and the opinion of experts that the child was “susceptible”. to have an average physical condition. growth ”came with a caveat that surgical repair is successful.

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“The petitioner, in my opinion, is justified in arguing that the continuation of the pregnancy, once it is known that the fetus has a rare congenital heart disease, which is a ‘substantial fetal anomaly’, with the complications and the resulting risks, would have a deleterious impact on the applicant’s mental health, ”the court said in its order issued on December 31.

The court allowed the applicant to undergo a medical termination of pregnancy at a medical facility of her choice and noted that the medical board appointed in the case had explained to the couple the possible complications of the termination procedure at this stage.

“As the courts have repeatedly argued… reproductive choice is a facet of a woman’s reproductive rights and a dimension of her ‘personal freedom’, enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. and, therefore, the applicant cannot be deprived of the freedom to make a decision to continue or not to continue the pregnancy, in the context of the fetal anomalies mentioned in the medical opinion of the commission ”, declared the court. .

“It is up to the petitioner to make the final decision to undergo the procedure for medical termination of pregnancy, which would be at her own risk,” he said.

In this case, the fetus has been diagnosed with the existence of tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve syndrome which includes a hole in the heart as well as a poorly developed valve that protects the blood vessel delivering blood to the side. right from the heart to the lungs.

The petitioner, represented by lawyer Sneha Mukherjee, applied to the court in December for permission to undergo medical termination of pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), claiming the fetus was suffering from heart abnormalities and that the chances of survival were remote.

On December 22, the court asked the AIIMS to set up a medical commission for the examination of the woman as soon as possible.

The petitioner argued that not allowing her to undergo a medical termination of pregnancy would strain her financially, emotionally and physically.

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