The woman had filed a petition last week saying that doctors at several private hospitals had ruled that the foetus had spina bifida, a birth defect that wouldn’t allow the spine and spinal cord to form properly. A baby born with this condition can’t move or perform normal bodily functions and could die in weeks, say doctors.
Until now, the most delayed abortion in the country had been at 33 weeks. It was sanctioned last August by the Bombay High Court, which allowed the petitioner, a 20-year-old woman, to medically terminate her pregnancy because her foetus had Arnold Chiari malformation II — a group of brain malformations that lead to serious spinal disorders — and bilateral clubfoot.
In the case of the Kolkata woman, Justice Rajasekhar Mantha asked her whether she was ready to take the risk of such a late abortion and allowed it after she said yes. The court, however, made her and her husband sign an undertaking in the form of an affidavit, saying they couldn’t hold anyone responsible if anything went wrong during the procedure.
A medical board formed at SSKM Hospital endorsed the termination appeal.
This is the third case of medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) in Kolkata, allowed by the court since 2017.
In the last case in 2019, a 24-week pregnant woman was allowed to undergo abortion on the grounds that the unborn child had an incurable cerebral disorder.
The amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act allows a woman to undergo abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy, subject to the condition that the pregnancy, if allowed to continue, poses a threat to the mother’s life, or if the foetus has an incurable abnormality. Beyond 24 weeks, court approval is required.