The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the plea of a 10-year-old rape survivor seeking to abort her 32-week-old (8+ months) foetus, basing its decision on doctors’ assessment that the termination would neither be safe for the child nor the foetus.
The petition to allow the girl medical termination of her pregnancy was filed by a Supreme Court lawyer after she was denied permission by the district court in Chandigarh. The apex court, earlier this week, had asked doctors at Chandigarh’s PGI to examine the girl and conclude if an abortion was safe. It ordered today that proper medical care be provided to the child.
As per the SC’s direction, the PGI had set an eight-member committee to formally check whether the health of girl and the child would be adversely affected if the pregnancy was permitted to extend up to its full term.
A senior gynaecologist from Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, told Hindustan Times, “The baby cannot be aborted. They can go to any apex court or any hospital. The child has crossed the time to abort the baby.”
The girl’s case came to light two weeks ago after she was taken to the hospital for stomach ache. She was allegedly raped by her maternal uncle, a hotel worker, repeatedly for over seven months. He has been arrested. The girl’s family hails from Nepal and had been residing in a servant’s quarter in one of Chandigarh’s southern sectors. Her father is a watchman, and mother, a domestic help.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, of India does not allow abortions after 20 weeks unless there is a threat to the other’s life. There have been past cases where a medical termination was allowed after the 20-week deadline was crossed. On July 4, a Kolkata woman was allowed to abort her foetus in her 26th week as it was suffering from cardiac ailments. In May, the SC had allowed a 10-year-old rape survivor from Haryana to abort her 21-week foetus.
A public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an extension of the legal limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
The Logical Indian community is aggrieved at the plight of the 10-year-old girl. When she had first filed for abortion, she was in her 26th week of pregnancy. However, as the Indian law does not permit medical termination after 20 weeks, she was denied abortion by the Chandigarh district court. Doctors had earlier opined that at such a tender age, the child’s bones are not strong enough to bear a full-term pregnancy. There have been other experts too who opined that termination would be harmful to both her and the foetus – the Supreme Court based its judgement on this.
Advocates against the 20-week limit demand that it be extended to 24 weeks. If the amendment is considered, getting abortions for rape victims would be easier.
There are many countries that allow medical termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. The United Kingdom allows abortions till 24 weeks and, if there is a risk to life of the woman and a substantial risk of the foetus being born handicapped, the law does permits abortion any time. In China, abortions can take place until 28 weeks.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act is a 46-year-old law that needs to amended with changing times. Extending the legal limit for abortion would give women more control over their bodies.