Rule banning single women from abortion after 20 weeks disputed, Delhi HC demands response from Center

Rejecting her request for permission to terminate the pregnancy for 23 weeks and 5 days, the Delhi High Court, in an order issued on Saturday, said the case of the 25-year-old single woman was not covered by law on medical termination of pregnancy.

The court also gave notice to the Center on its plea requesting that unmarried women should also be subject to Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003 which only allows certain categories of women to apply for termination. of a pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks. . The government was asked to file a response by August 26.

On Friday, the divisional bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that he “will not allow” the woman to undergo a medical termination of pregnancy within the past 23 weeks, saying it would “virtually” amount to “killing the child”, and suggested she should give birth and opt for adoption instead.

“The applicant, who is a single woman and whose pregnancy is the result of a consensual relationship, is clearly not covered by any of the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003. Therefore, section 3( 2)(b) of the Act is not applicable to the facts of this case,” the division bench said in the order.

The woman is a permanent resident of Manipur and currently resides in Delhi. The court was told that the pregnancy was from a consensual relationship and she could not give birth to the child as she is a single woman and her partner refused to marry her. His lawyer further argued in court that if the unmarried woman, who is only an arts graduate, gives birth to the child, it will lead to her “ostracism” and cause her mental agony. She was ‘abandoned’ by her partner at the last moment as he reneged on his promise of marriage, the court was told.

At Friday’s hearing, the court said, “We won’t allow you to kill the child; 23 weeks have passed. The child will remain in the uterus for how many weeks for a normal delivery? Barely how many weeks are there? Give the child to someone for adoption. Why are you killing the child? said the division bench.

The woman challenged Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003, which states that only certain categories of women are allowed to seek termination of pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks.

Women who can seek redress under the rule include survivors of sexual assault, rape, or incest; minors; change in marital status during the current pregnancy (widowhood and divorce); women with physical disabilities [major disability as per criteria laid down under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016]; women with mental disorders, including mentally retarded; fetal malformation which presents a substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born he may suffer from physical or mental abnormalities such that he is seriously handicapped; and pregnant women in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations, as may be declared by the government.

Dr Amit Sharma, her lawyer, had told the court that her case was covered by Section 3(2)(b)(i) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which provides that a pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks can be interrupted if two doctors are of the opinion that “continuation of the pregnancy would endanger the life of the pregnant woman or cause serious damage to her physical or mental health”. He argued that Rule 3B violated Article 14.

However, the court said in the order that section 3(2)(b) of the Act only applies to women covered by the 2003 rules. “The question whether such a rule is valid whether or not can only be decided after said rule is found to be ultra vires, to that end notice must be published in the motion in writ and has been done by this court,” the bench said.

The bench further said that as of today, Rule 3B stands and the court cannot go beyond the law. “In view of the above, this court is not inclined to consider the interim application at this stage,” he said.

The court observed on Friday that it was not forcing the woman to raise the child and would ensure she was sent to a good hospital. “Your whereabouts will not be known to anyone. You will deliver the baby, and please come back. Everything will be taken care of by the government of India or Delhi or a good hospital. If the government does not pay no… I’m here to pay,” he said.

Although the law allows the termination of a pregnancy up to 20 and 24 weeks provided that women fulfill the conditions stipulated in the MTP law and the MTP rules, pregnancy beyond this period can only be terminated if the doctors consider that the interruption is “immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman”.

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