The Calcutta High Court today allowed a 42-year-old woman to terminate her 29-week pregnancy since the foetus was suffering from Down Syndrome, considering her claim of mental, physical and financial stress.
Noting that the state has not come forward to alleviate her problems by offering any financial and medical assistance, a division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice B Somadder said along with the unborn child, the mother also has a right to life with dignity.
A report by a medical board constituted by the West Bengal government has said that the foetus is suffering from Down Syndrome and is likely to be affected by deformities in the oesophagus, heart and abdomen.
The report of the government-appointed panel said that the child, if born, would require long-term treatment and specialised care, but the outcome is uncertain, the woman''s lawyers told the court.
The bench, also comprising Justice Arindam Mukherjee, observed that the birth of the child in such circumstances would lead to immense mental and physical agony to the mother.
The court allowed the woman, who is at present into 29 weeks of pregnancy, to have the abortion done at a registered private facility.
Her lawyers, Kallol Basu and Apalak Basu, had approached the division bench of the court after its single bench refused permission for the abortion.
Stating that losing a child is a mother's worst nightmare, the woman pleaded that her age and financial status will come in the way of giving the child required treatment and care.
The lawyers told the division bench that the child would suffer in absence of proper medical care owing to the family's humble financial condition.
They said that the petitioner, a homemaker, would approach a registered private facility for the medical process, if permission is granted, as government hospitals are averse to aborting a foetus at such an advanced stage.
Her husband (48) works in a private firm, earning a very modest salary, they reasoned.
The couple have another school-going child who is 13-years-old.
According to the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, permission of high court is required to abort a foetus which is 20 weeks old or more.
A single bench of the high court had on January 29 refused permission to the woman to terminate her pregnancy, when the foetus was 26-week old.
The medical board at the state-run SSKM Hospital had in a report to the court said the prognosis of the baby is likely to be better if it is delivered on completion of the full term of pregnancy.
Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that involves birth defects, intellectual disabilities and characteristic facial features.