The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday denied a 20-year-old woman permission to terminate her 25-week-old pregnancy, stating that aborting a healthy foetus that is unlikely to affect the mother’s physical health amounted to murder.

In her petition, the Mumbai-based woman said she would suffer from mental trauma if she went ahead with the “unwanted pregnancy”. The petitioner said she was suffering from epilepsy and was about to separate from her husband, whom she accused of domestic violence.

The woman had first approached the Bombay high court but was forced to move the apex court after her plea was declined.

According to the Indian law, a foetus older than 20 weeks can be aborted if its birth is likely to culminate in serious physical or mental abnormalities or if the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life.

In this case, however, the SC ruled that the continuation of the pregnancy would not harm the woman physically. “She is not likely to suffer any physical harm,” SC told the woman’s counsel, Sneha Mukherjee.

Mukherjee, however, argued that the mental injury her client would suffer if she isn’t allowed to abort the “unwanted pregnancy” should also be considered.

“A mother’s health and rights need to be put on a higher pedestal than the child… One needs to choose the existing right over a potential right. It’s not about a person suffering physically but also mentally,” she argued. But the bench found no merit in the argument and said: “You should make the mother hear her child’s heartbeat.” It said the woman would “regret killing the baby” if she “reconciled with her husband”.

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