The freedom of a woman to decide whether to continue with pregnancy cannot be taken away, the Kerala High Court has said while allowing a mildly mentally challenged mother to abort her more than a 22-week old abnormal foetus.
The high court said that the right of a mother to terminate her pregnancy, if there was a substantial risk that after birth the child could suffer from abnormalities which could seriously handicap him or her, has been recognised by the courts.
In the instant case, the woman was mildly mentally challenged and according to the report of a medical team that examined her, the foetus was suffering from Klinefelter syndrome — a genetic condition in which a male is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome.
The syndrome is a chromosomal anomaly associated with variable mental subnormality, endocrine problems and psychological issues in later life, the court noted in its order.
According to the medical report, besides mild mental disabilities, the woman also suffers from visual disturbances, seizures and weaknesses of the left lower limb with a permanent disability of 55 per cent.
The report said that while Klinefelter syndrome was not life-threatening, since the mother has a mild mental disability and impaired adaptive skills, “she might find it difficult to cope with the child-rearing demands of a baby with a disability”.
“For the above-mentioned reasons, medical termination of pregnancy is recommended,” the report said.
After perusing the report, the high court said, “The freedom of a pregnant woman in making a choice as to whether the pregnancy should be continued cannot be taken away. Likewise, the right of the mother to terminate the pregnancy medically even after the permissible period in terms of the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, has been recognised by the courts, if there is substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”
“In the result, the writ petition is allowed and the first petitioner (mother) is permitted to undergo the procedure for termination of the pregnancy. The respondents concerned would be free to undertake the said procedure at the risk of the first petitioner,” the court added.
The order came on a plea moved by the woman and her husband seeking to medically terminate the over 22-week old pregnancy on the ground that continuing with it would pose a risk to the mother’s life and the baby would suffer from physical and mental abnormalities.