A district court in Chandigarh denied a 10-year-old rape survivor permission to abort her foetus on Wednesday. According to a report, it was confirmed that the foetus was 26 weeks old. Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), a foetus upto 20 weeks of development can be aborted. But courts can and have made exceptions if the foetus is genetically abnormal or if the pregnancy can be threatening to the health of the mother.
The court refused to grant her permission on the grounds that the abortion could would be dangerous to her life. The court made the decision based on a medical report filed by the gynaecological department of Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32 which said that an abortion at this stage could result in serious health issues for the rape victim.
Exceptions to the abortion clause have been made several times in the past. The Supreme Court allowed the termination of a 24-week-old foetus last year as reaching term would have been life threatening to the mother. It also had granted a Kolkata woman permission to abort a foetus above 20 weeks of development as it had developed pulmonary atresia, a rare cardiac impairment.
But this district court in Chandigarh refusing to let the survivor abort her foetus baffles us for multiple reasons. Firstly, at the age of 10, her pelvic bones are not developed fully to accommodate child birth. Carrying the foetus to term could potentially be fatal to the survivor, irrespective of a normal or caesarian delivery. Secondly, although the abortion could cause side effects to the survivor, it would be nothing compared to the mental trauma of carrying the foetus to term.
The survivor was raped multiple times for a few months, allegedly by her maternal uncle.
According to the report, multiple doctors are baffled at a 10-year-old girl being pregnant. Rashmi Bagga from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, says, “I have not seen a 10-year-old girl pregnant ever before. In contrast to a normal pregnancy, underage pregnancy is difficult to detect. When a menstrual cycle is missed, it is not noted by underage girls.”
Earlier a Rohtak court had granted permission to another 10-year-old rape victim to abort her foetus, which was between 18-22 weeks old. Making exceptions aside, it is high time courts in India make special provisions for medical treatments of and necessary abortions for rape victims.