Today in Ahmedabad, a panel comprising of a psychologist and 4 senior gynaecologists of Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad permits abortion of 14-year-old sexual assault of victim girl.
A 14-year-old rape victim can have her pregnancy terminated if it is necessary to save her life, the Supreme Court has said. The Gujarat minor, who was raped by a doctor after he gave her sedatives, has a 24-week-old foetus in her womb. Overruling the Gujarat High Court’s decision, the supreme court’s historical verdict has opened a debate on the need to amend the archaic Indian law on abortions.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, mandates that a woman can’t terminate her pregnancy after 20 weeks. Even between 12 and 20 weeks, the Act allows abortion only if pregnancy is likely to be a threat to the mother’s life or if there is a possibility of the child being born with physical or mental abnormalities.
Not permitting the victim girl to have an abortion right away, as was vehemently requested by her lawyer, the court said she would be examined on July 30 by a panel comprising a psychologist and 4 senior gynaecologists of Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad.
One of the four doctors had last week advised the minor to terminate the pregnancy.
“The panel will interact with her and conduct a medical examination to see if there is serious threat to her life if the child is not aborted…if it is found that the termination of pregnancy is necessary to save her life, the panel can perform necessary surgery without any further permission from the court,” the bench of Justices AR Dave and Kurian Joseph told Jaiswal.
The victim’s lawyer pleaded that if the girl is not permitted to terminate the pregnancy, even if it does not pose a health risk, she will bear the stigma all her life and her future will be ruined.
But Justice Dave expressed helplessness: “The Act says that unless there is a threat to (mother’s) life, abortion cannot be permitted. It would be contrary to law. Our hands are tied. Why has law prescribed 20 weeks’ limit? Because you cannot kill a child like this in the womb. Of course, had I been a girl of 14…I can understand the agony..the society is very cruel.”
The chances of the girl being allowed a termination are good, since Dr Riddhi Shukla, who had examined her earlier and is now part of the medical panel approved by the court, has already stated that the delivery would be a great health risk for the minor.
In Gujarat class 9 girl suffering from typhoid, was taken to the clinic of the accused Dr Jatin K. Mehta on February 7, 2015. After asking her mother to wait outside the clinic, he gave her sedatives and allegedly raped her while she was unconscious.
The victim regained her senses during the sexual assault, but did not report the incident to anyone after being threatened by the doctor with dire consequences.
When menstrual periods stopped after a few months of the girl then she told her mother and uncle of the rape. The girl’s father moved the supreme court after the Gujarat HC rejected her petition seeking to terminate the pregnancy.
Saying that “though the incident was highly unfortunate, the law has to be obeyed”, the HC suggested that the girl deliver the baby and give it away for adoption.
When the SC posed a question in this regard and said that 90 per cent of the children given away for adoption were from unwed mothers, Jaiswal said the girl was not agreeable to this idea.