Bombay High Court liberally interprets The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 to allow the termination of pregnancy post 20 weeks

Shaikh Ayesha Khatoon v. The State of Maharashtra | Bombay High Court | Status: Disposed | |

The Bombay High Court  today permitted a woman who is 27 weeks pregnant to terminate her pregnancy. The woman’s foetus was suffering from serious fatal abnormalities including absence of the stomach and portions of the brain and heart. The High Court held that the mental trauma that a woman is likely to suffer as a result of carrying such a pregnancy to term
would constitute a ‘threat to the life of the woman’.

Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 permits a pregnancy to be terminated upto 20 weeks provided that the continuation of the pregnancy will lead to mental or physical injury to the woman or if the foetus suffers from such abnormalities that are likely to result in serious handicap. However section 5 carves out an exception to the ceiling of 20 weeks
and permits abortions if it is necessary to save the life of the woman. The High Court held that a purposive interpretation of section 5 would mean that only the ceiling of 20 weeks under section 3 does not apply under section 5, however the other provisions as regards threat to the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman and the condition of the foetus must be read into section 5.

The Court also held that the woman has a right to bodily integrity and a woman’s reproductive choice should be respected and such a right forms a part of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.