Women entitled to end pregnancy regardless of reason: HC

Mumbai, Sep 20 (PTI) Endorsing the right of a woman to"lead a life of her choice", the Bombay High Court has heldthat the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Actshould extend to the "mental health" of a woman and she shouldbe "allowed to opt out of an unwanted pregnancy irrespectiveof the reason". A division bench of Justices VK Tahilramani and MridulaBhatkar yesterday said, the benefits of the Act must beextended to not just married women but also to those women who"stay with their partners as married couples in live-inrelationships". The court maintained that though the Act provided for awoman to undergo abortion if she was pregnant for less than 12weeks and with the consent of two medical practitioners if shewas pregnant for 12 to 20 weeks, in cases where the pregnancyposed a risk to the health of a woman or to the foetus, shemust be allowed to undergo abortion during the same timelineeven if there was no risk to her "physical health". The court made the observation while taking suo motu (onits own) cognizance of a news report about pregnant womenprisoners who were not taken to hospitals, despite informingthe jail authorities of their wish to terminate pregnancy. "Pregnancy takes place within the body of a woman and hasa profound impact on her health, mental well-being and life.Thus, how she wants to deal with this pregnancy must be adecision she, and she alone, can make," the bench said. "The right to control their own body and fertility andmotherhood choices should be left to the women alone. Let usnot lose sight of the basic right of women: the right toautonomy and decide what to do with their own bodies,including whether or not to get pregnant and stay pregnant. "This right emerges from her right to live with dignity asa human being in society and protected as a fundamental rightunder Article 21 of the Constitution," the judges said. "Not allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy amountsto grave injury to her mental health," they added. The bench also passed certain directions to make it easierfor women prisoners to access health facilities, including theright to medical termination of pregnancy. PTI SP RSYRC

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