Termination of pregnancy in India is legal only up to 20 weeks. (Representational Image)
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to allow a woman, who is in her 26th week of pregnancy, to abort her foetus on the grounds that it suffered from Down syndrome, saying "we have a life in our hands".
The top court said that according to a report of the medical board constituted to examine the 37-year-old woman, there was no physical risk to the mother in continuation of pregnancy.
A bench of Justices SA Bobde and LN Rao observed that though "everybody knows that children with Down syndrome are undoubtedly less intelligent, but they are fine people".
Termination of pregnancy in India is legal only up to 20 weeks under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 on the grounds that the continuance of the pregnancy can be risky for the mother or if there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities.
The bench said as per the report, the foetus is "likely to have mental and physical challenges" but that doesn't warrant termination of pregnancy.
"With this report, we don't think we are going to allow termination of pregnancy. We have a life in our hands," the bench said.
The bench maintained that "in these circumstances, as per the present advice, it is not possible to grant permission to terminate the pregnancy."
Down syndrome is a congenital disorder which causes mild to moderate intellectual disability, physical abnormalities and delays physical growth. Early childhood intervention, screening for common problems, medical treatment where indicated, a friendly atmosphere at home, and speech therapy can improve the development of children.