Foetus’s life not more valuable than that of Mother: Telangana High Court allowing Rape Victim to abort child

A Single Judge Bench of Telangana High Court Consisting of Justice B Vijaysen Reddy in the case of XXXXX v. Union of India and Ors., while hearing the petition filed by a 16-year-old rape victim through her parents seeking permission for medical termination of pregnancy, observed that the life of a foetus which is a child still not born could not place at a higher level than the mother. 

While observing that Right to Choice in relation with termination of pregnancy is within the Fundamental Right to Life under Article 21 of the mother subject to reasonable restriction, the court granted the permission to the rape victim to terminate the 26 month foetus. The court recognised that if the permission to abort the foetus is not granted, the victim may have to undergo severe physical and mental distress which in turn may have long term adverse consequences on her health and future prospects.

Advocate Sravya Katta, while appearing for the victim, contended that as a woman, she has self-rule over her body under Right to Life under Article 21. She also argued that subjecting of a 24-month pregnant minor girl to legal deferrals is gravely inhumane and the Right to Life of the rape victim by far exceeds the right to life of the unborn child. 

The court after perusing through the arguments and referring to Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment)Act 2021 noted that although the act restricts termination of pregnancy which is over 24 weeks, it is well settled in law that the constitutional courts possess the power of directing the termination of pregnancy even when the foetus age exceeds 24 weeks.

In the exercise of this power, the court allowed the minor girl for medical termination of the pregnancy and held that if she is compelled to continue with such pregnancy, then it would be grossly in violation of her Right to Life which is a Fundamental Right under Article 21. The court held that dignity, self-respect and healthy living form an important part of Right to Life under Article 21 and this also include the right of a woman to make choice regarding termination of pregnancy in case she has been subjected to rape or sexual abuse or any other such unplanned pregnancy and as such the Right to Life of the unborn child could not be above the Right to life of the victim.

Picture Credits: Bar and Bench

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