Court Grants Woman Right to Abort Her 24-Week-Old Unborn Baby So She Can “Live Her Life With Dignity”

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 5, 2018   |   11:24AM   |   New Delhi, India

A viable, late-term unborn baby may be aborted this week in India after a high court granted the baby’s mother an exception to India’s 20-week abortion ban.

The Bombay high court heard the woman’s request for a late-term abortion on Feb. 21 and referred her for an examination at J.J. Hospital, The Asian Age reports. Based on the medical panel’s report, the high court decided to allow the woman to abort her unborn baby.

The court ruled that, because the unborn baby may have severe neurological issues, the mother should be allowed to abort the baby so that she can “live a life of dignity.”

The justices wrote: “In view of the above peculiar circumstances and having due regard for the fundamental right conferred on the petitioner under Article 21 of the constitution of India to live a life of dignity, it will be appropriate and in the interest of justice to permit the petitioner to undergo the medical termination of pregnancy under the provision of the medical termination of pregnancy act 1971.”

Abortions are illegal after 20 weeks in India, but the courts have been allowing more exceptions to the law, especially for unborn babies with disabilities.

“If the woman is allowed to give birth to the foetus, there is substantial risk of serious physical handicap,” Justice Shantanu Kemkar and Justice Makarand Karnik wrote in their decision.

The report does not indicate when the mother’s abortion is scheduled or her unborn baby’s sex or specific medical condition.

In the past year, Indian courts have heard dozens of similar cases involving late-term unborn babies who had disabilities or were conceived in rape.

In January, the Bombay court granted another exception for a 29-week unborn baby with disabilities. The court argued that giving birth to a child with disabilities would cause mental trauma for the mother.

In the fall, the Supreme Court of India also granted an exception for a woman whose unborn baby had potentially fatal kidney problems. She was 31 weeks pregnant.

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The courts did refuse several cases where the babies had treatable conditions, such as Down syndrome. In January, the Bombay court also rejected a woman’s request for an abortion at 31 weeks because doctors said it was too risky.

At 20 weeks, an unborn baby already is nearly fully formed and close to the point of viability (about 23 weeks). Later-term abortions also are risky and can be deadly for the mother.