Indian Court Rejects Abortion Plea from 10-Year-Old Rape Victim

Akash Vashishtha
New Delhi
170728-india-620.jpg Indian police detain demonstrators in Gandhinagar, in western India, during a protest march demanding justice for a rape victim in the state of Gujarat, Feb. 20, 2017.

India’s top court on Friday turned down a petition from a 10-year-old rape victim who was seeking permission to terminate her 32-week pregnancy, saying an abortion would be too risky.

The Supreme Court said it was basing its judgment on the assessment of a leading medical institute, which concluded that abortion would be unsafe for the girl.

“In view of the recommendation of the medical board, we are satisfied that it is neither in the interest of the girl child or fetus, which is approximately 32 weeks old, to order abortion,” the court said, adding that the girl was receiving treatment at a government hospital.

The girl, a Nepalese by origin, was allegedly raped multiple times by her maternal uncle over the last seven months, resulting in the pregnancy. It was discovered when the victim complained to her mother about pain in her abdomen.

After arresting the accused, police in the northern state of Haryana sought permission from the district court for the victim to terminate her then 26-week pregnancy. The court rejected that request on July 18 on the basis of a gynecology report that cited risk to the victim’s life if the fetus was aborted.

Indian law restricts termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks. Fetuses beyond that period may be aborted under exceptional circumstances, if doctors believe that giving birth would cause grave harm – physically or mentally – to the mother or the child.

An amendment to the law, which would allow the termination of pregnancy from 20 to 24 weeks, was introduced in the parliament in 2006, but lawmakers have yet to pass it.

After issuing the ruling, Supreme Court Justices J.S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud urged the government to establish permanent medical boards in all states to decide on such matters, considering the increasing number of abortion requests being filed in the court by rape victims.

Alakh Alok Srivastava, a Delhi-based lawyer who filed the petition on the girl’s behalf, said he was satisfied with the court’s verdict.

“Our petition was to get her [the girl] thoroughly examined medically to see if an abortion was possible or not. The court accepted that and ordered a medical assessment. Our plea was not to get the fetus aborted,” Srivastava told BenarNews.

“Above all, the court has directed that the best medical care be provided to the girl to see her through the pregnancy. The order is quite a relief to us,” he said.

Delivery will be complicated: doctors

However, senior gynecologists predicted many complications during childbirth for the minor girl.

“It is going to be a risky delivery and is likely to have many complications,” Dr. Sushma Dikshit, head of the Gynecology Department of Max Super Specialty Hospital, told BenarNews.

“It cannot be said right now whether the minor will undergo a normal delivery or a C-section. It depends on her condition during labor and the associated risks and complications at that time,” she said.

Dr. Nikita Trehan, a top Indian gynecologist, felt that forcing a 10-year-old to give birth posed serious risks to the minor.

“A 10-year-old girl still has not developed bones and pelvic muscles,” Trehan told BenarNews last week.

Young girls also don’t have enough iron and calcium to transfer to their babies, she said.

“And because of undeveloped bones, the girl may suffer a fracture during childbirth. She may bleed excessively,” Trehan said. “Her uterus may not respond. It is full of risks.”


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