‘Right to make Reproductive Choices a facet of Personal Liberty under Art 21’: Kerala HC allows abortion for a 14-year-old rape survivor

The Kerala High court gave the permission to terminate 24-week pregnancy of a minor rape survivor in the State. On the recommendation of the medical board that continuation of the pregnancy would be a threat to both mental and physical health of the minor girl, Justices AK Jayashankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly gave permission for an abortion.

The bench further went ahead to state that Article 21, right to reproductive choices was considered to be a facet of personal liberty. The court went ahead to cite that whether to carry a pregnancy is included within the ambit of reproductive health however it will be subject to the provisions of MTP Act which state that pregnancy would be terminated after 20 weeks only if there is a threat to the life of the women. The directions were issued by the High Court to constitute a medical board that includes a psychiatrist after the lawyer made a special mention citing the urgency while the court was conducting hearing over videoconferencing in view of COVID-19 lockdown and the petition was allowed for the termination of pregnancy. 

In 2011, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, women’s rights to reproductive autonomy was recognised by dismissing a suit filed by a husband against a doctor who had performed an abortion without the husband’s consent saying that “It is a personal right of a woman to give birth to a child…No body can interfere in the personal decision of the wife to carry on or abort her pregnancy…unwanted pregnancy would naturally affect the mental health of the pregnant women.”