Rape Victims Can Terminate Pregnancy Without Medical Board's Permission: Madras High Court
The Madras High Court has said that a woman can terminate her 20-week old unwanted pregnancy on her own without taking permission from the court or the medical board. The court made this observation on 19 June, while disposing of a petition by a rape victim who approached the court for permission to terminate her pregnancy following refusal by a government hospital to end it.
The court also pulled up the government and the doctors who examined her. The court said
“In cases of this nature, the doctors and the courts need to be more sensitive and should act fast since the victim girl is carrying a foetus, which keeps reminding her of the agony faced by her due to rape and every moment she suffers mental agony and depression due to the unwanted pregnancy that has been forced against her.”
After filing a complaint with the local police, the victim urged it to get her pregnancy terminated but the police did not take any action.
Then she got admitted at a state-run hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, though the doctor their initially agreed to her request, but later they turned her away in view of the police case and forensic examination of the pregnancy.
Left with no other option, the victim knocked on the doors of the High Court that directed her to the government hospital, Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children, where on examination she was found to be 8 to 10 weeks pregnant.
Instead of helping, the hospital then wrote to the Dean, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital that the victims’ pregnancy could be terminated only by the medical board there. The police then didn’t follow up.
Again the matter came to the court on June 12, then finally the court directed police to take the rape victim to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and ordered the hospital to proceed with the termination of pregnancy and also to take samples for the DNA test and hand it over to the Forensic lab. The pregnancy was terminated at the hospital and was reported to the court.
In all cases of termination of pregnancy involving a criminal case, samples will have to be taken for a DNA test, the court said.
“In all other cases, where the length of pregnancy exceeds 20 weeks, the victim may approach the High Court for getting an abortion and the medical board will examine the matter,” the court explained.
“The termination of pregnancy can be done as per the provisions of Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The victim girl should not be unnecessarily made to knock the doors of this court,” Justice N Anand Venkatesh said in his order.
The judge further said that even in cases where the length of pregnancy exceeded 20 weeks, it can be terminated (in accordance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act) if the life of the woman was under threat.
Counsel for the petitioner, Sudha Ramalingam said that in all cases involving medical termination of pregnancy, the victim should not be made to knock on the doors of the court, where the pregnancy is below 20 weeks.
The accused Naveeth Ahamed had sexually assaulted the woman and made a video of the act and threatened her to make it public if she dared to make a complaint to anybody.