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Daily Current Affairs for UPSC

Foetus has rights to alive

Syllabus: Governance [GS Paper-2]

Context

The Supreme Court of India has recently delivered a landmark verdict, stating that a 28-week-old foetus has the right to life, which supersedes the mother’s right to abort. This judgement has sparked intense debates and discussions among legal experts, medical professionals, and social activists. 

Background of the Case

The case is about a woman, who was at 28 weeks of pregnancy, with whom she wanted to resort to abortion for health issues. But the doctors turned down the request of the mother, mentioning the baby’s possibility of survival and the threat of lawsuits. The female did as such move to the Supreme Court looking for justice and to have the authority to contemplate on her own body.

The Court’s Verdict

Through the judgement pronounced by the Supreme Court, it is clearly mentioned that when the pregnancy period is up to the 28th week, then there is life of the foetus which is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court extended this notion by saying that this right is superior to the first one’s right to abort as the foetus is swiftly capable of being born outside the uterus with medical assistance. The decision was arrived at on account of foetal shift law 1971, which granted termination until a 20 weeks tension period.

Implications of the Verdict

The Supreme Court’s verdict has significant implications for Indian society, particularly for women’s reproductive rights. The judgement:

  • Restricts women’s autonomy over their bodies and reproductive choices
  • Prioritises the foetus’s right to life over the mother’s right to health and well-being
  • May lead to a decrease in safe and legal abortions, driving women to seek unsafe and illegal options
  • Raises questions about the constitutionality of the MTP Act and its limitations

The Legal Context

  • MTP Act Provisions: As per the MTP act, termination of the pregnancies is possible before the 20 weeks of gestation, only in some predominant cases like danger to the mother’s life or the abnormalities to the foetus.
  • Exceptions for Rape Survivors and Minors: This Act does allow the girls who got pregnant as a result of the sexual violence and the minors to have abortion up to 24 weeks under some established conditions.

The Court’s Decision

  • Foetus’s Right to Life: The Supreme Court further stressed that the legal status of a 28-week old foetus is entitled to life, unquestionably. This goes without saying, that in such a situation, the baby has an absolute and total right not to be aborted by the mother.
  • Ethical and Legal Concerns: The court declined the woman’s plea, taking instead the ethical and legal purposes behind feticide into consideration. Mr. Justice Subramonium Prasad of the Delhi High Court in turn had declined the plea two months ago, normalcy of the foetus including; the estimated likelihood of infant death in such a surgery.
  • Fully Developed Foetus: As the ultrasound report the baby that was situated in the womb was the completely developed one and of excellent health also. This situation played a part in the Supreme Court’s case.

Balancing Rights

  • Mother’s Trauma: Along whom the lawyer said that the trauma of the pregnancy was caused due to social rejection. Nonetheless, the tribunal still judged that the life of a healthy twenty-eight-week-old foetus was more valuable than the mother’s discontent.
  • MTP Act Mandate: As court specified it does not have powers to pass order of MTP Act which is going against provisions of the Act. This Act particularly aims at the safeguarding of pregnant women’s wellbeing and health.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court’s verdict has sparked a national debate on women’s reproductive rights and the right to life of the foetus. While the judgement prioritises the foetus’s right to life, it is essential to consider the mother’s health, well-being, and autonomy in making reproductive choices. The government and civil society must work together to ensure access to safe and legal abortion services, reduce maternal mortality, and protect women’s rights.

Source: TOI

UPSC Mains Practice Question

Q. Examine the ethical and legal dimensions of recognizing the rights of a fetus to life. How do these considerations impact reproductive rights and laws in India?

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