The Delhi High Court has reversed its previous decision allowing a widow to terminate her 29-week pregnancy, following an application from the central government. The woman, who has been grappling with mental trauma since her husband’s death in October 2023, had initially been granted permission for the medical termination on January 4 of this year.
Justice Subramonium Prasad reconsidered the order after the central government raised concerns about the right to life of the unborn fetus. The All India Institute of Management Science (AIIMS) had not recommended terminating the pregnancy based on its duration.
The court had originally granted the petition, taking into account the petitioner’s submissions and a psychiatric evaluation report. Justice Prasad noted a change in the petitioner’s marital status, emphasizing the extreme trauma she was experiencing due to her husband’s death. The court expressed concern that continuing with the pregnancy could jeopardize her mental stability, potentially leading to self-harm.
However, the central government requested a review of the order, asserting the right to life of the unborn fetus. The high court, acknowledging the government’s application, recalled its previous decision.
The court cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in X vs. Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and Another, which recognizes a woman’s prerogative to evaluate her life and make decisions in light of changing circumstances. The high court clarified that its order was specific to the unique circumstances of this case and should not be considered a precedent.
The petitioner’s counsel argued that the petitioner faced pressure from doctors to continue with the pregnancy, and forcing her to do so would infringe upon her privacy. The court had previously sought input from the Department of Psychiatry at AIIMS, which confirmed the petitioner’s severe depression with suicidal ideation.
The court had directed AIIMS to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of the petitioner, and the subsequent report indicated the petitioner’s severe depression. Despite the court’s earlier order allowing termination, the central government’s intervention prompted a reevaluation of the situation, leading to the recall of the termination order by the Delhi High Court.