The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Bihar government to pay an HIV+ rape victim Rs 3 lakh compensation, as it rejected the 26-week pregnant woman’s plea for abortion.
A court-appointed panel of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) advised against terminating the pregnancy, saying the procedure at such an advanced stage posed a risk to lives of the mother and her unborn child.
India has a 20-week legal ceiling on abortion except when there is a risk to mother’s life. The draft of the new medical termination of pregnancy bill allows abortion up to 24 weeks but it is yet to be introduced in Parliament.
The 35-year-old destitute woman sought an abortion saying the foetus was at risk of contracting the deadly infection.
A bench headed by justice Dipak Misra also asked doctors at AIIMS to draw up a treatment plan to ensure that the baby didn’t contract the infection.
The plan would be followed by the doctors at the Indira Gandhi Institute for Medical Sciences in Patna, her hometown.
The court will on August 9 -- the next day of hearing -- determine the compensation authorities in Bihar will pay to the woman for negligence.
She had sought an abortion when she was 17 weeks pregnant but authorities in Bihar were lax in their response, the court was told.
Divorced and left to fend for herself on the streets of Patna, the woman challenged in the top court the Patna high court’s refusal to permit her to terminate the pregnancy.
The Supreme Court on May 3 directed AIIMS to constitute a medical board to examine the woman. The woman, who lives in a shelter home in Patna, was flown to Delhi the next day.
The woman was not even aware of her pregnancy and the disease till she was rescued from the streets and brought to a shelter home on January 27.
“As per procedure, she underwent a medical test and learnt that she was 17 weeks pregnant. She told the doctors to abort the foetus. However, the hospital insisted on calling her father who too gave his consent,” her lawyer Vrinda Grover said.
Since the hospital did not respond, the woman sought the intervention of the high court. By then the pregnancy was between 20 and 21 weeks. The court set up a medical board that said the woman was suffering from minor mental retardation. The board didn’t clearly say if abortion could be carried out and yet the high court presumed that termination would be hazardous to the petitioner’s life, Grover said.