SC dismisses 10-yr-old rape survivor’s abortion plea after doctors say it’s unsafe

The Supreme Court bench took note of a medical report before giving its decision. Courts allow terminations beyond the legal 20-week pregnancy period if doctors say it is necessary to save the mother’s life.
Supreme Court(File Photo)
Supreme Court(File Photo)
Updated on Jul 28, 2017 11:25 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByBhadra Sinha

The Supreme Court noted on Friday a sharp rise in pleas from women seeking to abort pregnancies beyond the legally permissible time limit while rejecting a 10-year-old rape survivor’s request to terminate her 32-week pregnancy. Medical opinion placed before the court said the abortion would not be in the interest of either the girl or the foetus.

A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar asked the central government to consider setting up a permanent medical board in every state to quickly decide on pleas from pregnant women asking for terminations beyond the permissible 20-week period. The bench said these boards were needed to save time because such cases were coming to the courts in a “big way”.

This year, the Supreme Court has received at least seven petitions from women, including teenage rape survivors, asking to terminate pregnancies beyond 20 weeks. The top court disallowed abortions in two, including Friday’s, lawyers said.

Courts allow terminations beyond that in the rarest of circumstances if doctors say it is necessary to save the mother’s life.

Friday’s order came after the court perused the report of an expert panel set up by the PGI, Chandigarh, to find out “whether the health of the girl concerned and the child would be adversely affected if the pregnancy is allowed to be full term”.

The bench expressed satisfaction over the medical care being provided to the rape survivor and dismissed the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer seeking the abortion.

To the court’s suggestion on setting up permanent medical boards in states, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar said he would inform the court whether such boards can operate while amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTPA), 1971, considered extending the time-limit from 20 to 24 weeks.

The girl, who hails from Chandigarh, was repeatedly raped by her uncle. Her parents were poor and had approached the Chandigarh district court for permission to terminate the pregnancy. On July 18, the court dismissed the plea, citing the 20-week ceiling. A lawyer then went to the top court.

The girl was allegedly raped over seven months. Her parents got to know of it when they took her to a doctor after she complained of a stomach pain, her parents said.

In another case a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra allowed a 21-year-old woman from Mumbai to abort her 22-week-old foetus following a medical opinion that post-birth the child will have severe mental impairment.

A three-member panel of experts from JJ Hospital concluded the foetus suffered from Hydrocephalus, or accumulation of fluid in the brain. The court asked the woman to approach JJ Hospital for the termination, which it said should be done soon.

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