By Maya Palit
The case of a 35-year-old woman has triggered a debate because of her request to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape. The Supreme Court plans to deliberate whether a rape victim’s consent is enough for a pregnancy to be aborted.
The victim is an HIV positive woman who was abandoned by her husband and family, made homeless and subsequently raped on the streets in Patna. She is now 26 weeks pregnant. Apparently a medical institution in Patna (Parna Medical College and Hospital) and the Patna High Court asked her to provide proof of her father and husband’s consent despite the fact that the woman was insistent about wanting the abortion.
The subject cropped up after advocate Vrinda Grover suggested that the woman be given compensation by the Bihar government because she had gone to the hospital looking for an abortion in her 17th week (three weeks below the stipulated time period for a legal abortion). According to the woman’s plea, she only realised she was pregnant in the 13th week after being rescued by Shanti Kutir, a woman’s shelter. Apparently the hospital had denied the abortion because the woman didn’t have any identity proof, but it also wanted the father’s consent (which he provided, although it isn’t required by law).
“How can her brother, father or husband be asked to give a consent? It is she who will mother the child,” the bench wondered yesterday, and the issue is going to be discussed further today. In previous cases, where a woman has been declared mentally unstable, or where a writ petition hasn’t matched the woman’s take on aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape, High Courts have been known to summon the rape-accused and family members for their versions. But asking family members for consent is ridiculous, and let’s hope the Supreme Court bench acknowledges that today.