14-year-old rape victim seeks SC permission to abort

Igniting a debate on abortion meaning life for the mother but murder for the child, a 14-year-old rape victim >moved the Supreme Court on Monday to exercise her right as a woman to make a dignified choice and abort her 23-week-old foetus.

In an urgent mentioning, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu agreed to hear the victim on Tuesday. The Supreme Court will decide whether a minor victim of a sex crime should be compelled to undergo pregnancy merely because the child has exceeded the time limit under law for legal abortion.

The Class 10 school girl was denied permission by the Gujarat High Court, which held it was too late under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 to abort. The High Court held the Act did not allow for medical termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks. She was asked to go through with her pregnancy.

In her petition, filed through her parents, she said the High Court expressed “sympathy”, but refused “permission to abort the child conceived due to a ghastly act of rape” committed on her. The High Court ordered the State to provide for her diet, nutrition, supervision of her medical and educational needs and provide her a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh.

The authorities were also asked to help in the adoption of her child “in case the victim does not want to or is enable to bring him or her up”.

Crying injustice, the victim said she could not bear to undergo the “severe psychological, physical and emotional trauma of going through a full term pregnancy and eventually to be in helpless situation either to be unable to raise her child properly or to grieve”.

In her petition, represented by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, the victim said a “woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of personal liberty as understood under Article 21 of the Constitution”.

“It is important to recognise that reproductive choices can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating. The crucial consideration is that a woman's right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected,” the victim's petition said.

Noting that the legislative intent of the 1971 Act was to end the regressive colonial attitude to make the mother and the doctor criminals for abortions, the victim said the law allowed termination if the pregnancy was a “threat to the woman's life”. She said the term 'life' here did not merely mean physical health of a pregnant woman, but also social and economic circumstances, physical well being, future life and mental health relevant for her to live her life to the fullest.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 6:45:31 AM |

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