IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th October, 2023 Social Issues

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  • The ongoing case before the Supreme Court of India has brought to light the critical concepts of 'foetal viability' and the 'rights of the unborn child' in the context of a woman's right to terminate a 26-week pregnancy.


Case Overview

  • The case revolves around a 27-year-old married woman seeking termination of her 26-week pregnancy, citing financial constraints and mental health concerns
  • . The Supreme Court has been examining the matter, leading to discussions on the woman's decisional autonomy and the legislative provisions related to abortion.

Foetal Viability

  • 'Foetal viability' refers to the stage at which a foetus can survive outside the womb.
  • The concept gained prominence in discussions related to abortion rights, as it serves as a benchmark for determining the permissibility of terminating a pregnancy.
  • The Court's consideration of foetal viability in the context of this case indicates a shift toward assessing the potential survivability of the foetus if born prematurely.

Rights of the Unborn Child

  • The discussion on the 'rights of the unborn child' involves contemplating the legal and ethical status of the foetus, particularly in relation to the pregnant woman's autonomy.
  • It raises questions about the balance between a woman's right to choose and the perceived rights of the foetus, leading to a complex interplay between reproductive rights and the protection of potential life.

Indian Abortion Laws

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP Act) in India allows the termination of pregnancies under specific circumstances and timeframes, involving the advice of medical practitioners and the establishment of medical boards in certain cases.
  • The Act recognizes the right to terminate pregnancies up to 20 weeks, with provisions for termination up to 24 weeks under exceptional circumstances, as specified in the legislation.

Legal Precedents and Judicial Interpretation

  • Previous court rulings have highlighted instances of allowing the termination of pregnancies beyond the 24-week limit in cases involving rape survivors and other exceptional circumstances.
  • The judicial approach in considering the rights of the unborn child vis-à-vis a woman's decisional autonomy has been evolving, emphasizing the need for a delicate balance between the two interests.

Comparison with International Standards

  • The discussion on 'foetal viability' draws parallels with international standards, notably the 'Roe v. Wade' case in the United States, where abortion rights were linked to foetal viability.
  • The Indian legal framework reflects a greater emphasis on women's autonomy and reproductive rights compared to the rights of the unborn child, as highlighted by the observed legislative and judicial trends.

Policy Implications

  • The ongoing case has significant policy implications, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of reproductive rights and the evolving dynamics between women's autonomy and the legal status of the foetus.


The evolving discussions around foetal viability, the rights of the unborn child, and women's reproductive autonomy necessitate a nuanced approach to legal frameworks that strikes a balance between protecting women's rights and acknowledging the moral and legal status of the foetus.


Q.   Analyze the implications of the concepts of 'foetal viability' and the 'rights of the unborn child' within the Indian legal framework on reproductive rights. Evaluate the evolving judicial approach in balancing the autonomy of women with the rights of the unborn child, and examine the criticisms and potential legislative gaps highlighted in the current discourse. (250 Words)