India’s top court on Tuesday denied a plea by a pregnant woman to terminate her 26-week-old foetus diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, the latest in a string of women to have her abortion request rejected.
Indian law does not permit terminations after 20 weeks, but the Supreme Court has made exceptions in cases where there is a danger to the life of the mother or baby.
The latest petition was denied after the court relied on a report by doctors that said there was “no physical risk” to the life of the 37-year-old mother if she continued with the pregnancy.
The two-judge bench also said it was not confirmed the foetus would suffer from severe mental and physical challenges.
Down’s syndrome is a genetic disorder typically associated with physical growth delays and intellectual disability.
“The medical report clearly does not, and possibly cannot, observe that this particular foetus will have severe mental and physical challenges,” the bench said, according to a copy of the order seen by AFP.
“It states that the ‘baby is likely to have mental and physical challenges.’”
In recent months India’s top court has received a number of petitions from women – including rape survivors and trafficked victims – seeking abortions where pregnancies had gone beyond 20 weeks.
Activists say the restriction should be extended to 24 weeks as victims of rape are often late to report their pregnancies.
In 2015, the Supreme Court allowed a 14-year-old rape victim to abort a foetus after the 20-week limit.