Gujarat High Court Allows the Termination of a Minor Girl’s 16-Week Pregnancy in Her Best Interests

Excerpt

The Court considered whether the cause of the 16-week pregnancy to be terminated, taking into account the victim’s physical wellbeing, the child’s potential complications and the victim’s social circumstances.

Facts

A 16-year-old girl got pregnant by the commission of a sex crime. She is now 16 weeks 2 days pregnant and was seeking to terminate her pregnancy. The medical methods (Mifepristone and Misoprostol) employed for termination of pregnancy at this maturity of the foetus may result in failure, in which case caesarean delivery (Hysterotomy) will be required, which was associated with its own morbidity & mortality and anaesthesia risks.

Arguments before the Court

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Learned Advocate for the petitioner submitted that however, as per the opinion of Dr Archana Sisodia (Assistant Professor), Dr Hardik Shah, Assistant Professor and Dr Swati N. Patel (Assistant Professor) of GMERS Medical College and Hospital, Sola, Ahmedabad, the petitioner has no objection if the pregnancy of victim girl would be terminated by the doctor concerned.

Court’s Observation

The Court referred to Section 3 of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, where it was stated that a pregnancy might be terminated by a registered medical practitioner where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks. This Act also permits termination where the pregnancy is more than twelve weeks. However, less than twenty weeks, if two registered medical practitioners think that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, grave injury to her physical or mental health, or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities. The case of Sushma Alias Gudiya D/o. Shivram Hariharprasad Maurya v. State of Gujarat & Ors and Bhavikaben v. State of Gujarat & Ors was cited in which was mentioned that to determine if whether the continuance of the pregnancy is risky or not, the woman’s actual or reasonable foreseeable environment may be looked into. It was also mentioned that no pregnancy of a woman, who has not attained the age of eighteen years, or who, having attained the age of eighteen years, was a mentally ill person, shall be terminated except with her consent in writing or her guardian’s. The Court in the case of Chandrakant Jayantilal Suthar & Anr. v. State of Gujarat left it to the discretion of the medical practitioners to decide if termination of pregnancy was necessary to save the victim’s life. In the case of Suchita Srivastava & Anr. v. Chandigarh Administration, the Apex Court laid down the theory of “best interest test”. This test requires the Court to ascertain the course of action that would serve the victim’s best interests alone and not those of stakeholders such as guardians of society. A careful inquiry of the medical opinion on the feasibility of the pregnancy and social circumstances faced by the victim must be done. The fact that there would be some costs involved to assist the woman cannot be a ground for denying the exercise of reproductive rights.

Court’s Judgement

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The Court applied the “best interests test” and passed the judgement that the termination of pregnancy should be permitted. The procedure would be done at GMERS Sola Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, with due risk in view of sickle cell trait and age of the patient.

Click here to read the Judgement


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