India To Allow Abortion For 14-Year-Old Rape Victim

Photo: Sajjad Hussain/Getty Images.
The Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of India will allow a 14-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and impregnated by a doctor to have an abortion, the Center for Reproductive Rights told Refinery29.

A panel of four gynecologists ruled unanimously that terminating the pregnancy is necessary to preserve the physical and mental health of the girl. The teen, who has not been named, was allegedly raped by a doctor treating her for typhoid and instructed by him not to tell her parents.

The Supreme Court's unprecedented ruling is a huge gain for women in India, where abortions beyond 20 weeks are currently prohibited by the country's Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. The girl's pregnancy is in its 24th week.

According to that law, which was passed in 1971, a court can grant an abortion to a woman after the 20-week gestation if the conditions of her pregnancy meet certain stipulations, but that decision is firmly in the hands of the court, not the woman.
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It's really important for there to be a change in how these cases are viewed. They're really about a woman's fundamental rights, a woman's human rights.

Melissa Upreti, Center for Reproductive Rights
"This can be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to really look at what's wrong with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act," Melissa Upreti, the Center for Reproductive Rights' regional director for Asia, told Refinery29.

"It's really important for there to be a change in how these cases are viewed. They're really about a woman's fundamental rights, a woman's human rights, and when it comes to adolescents, the state has a higher obligation to protect their rights and best interests," Upreti adds.

Initially, the Supreme Court denied the girl, known only as X, an abortion because her pregnancy had surpassed 20 weeks.

“We understand her life has been ruined and there will be social stigma. We can acknowledge her pain and agony and we want to help her. But we cannot do it in violation of the law," the court said at the time, according to The Indian Express.

They seem to focus more on protecting the pregnancy than really respecting the life and wellbeing of the child before them.

Melissa Upreti, Center for Reproductive Rights
Supported by doctors, her parents petitioned the court to reconsider based on the girl's age, her impoverished background, and her compromised physical and mental states.

"Look at the language that courts adopt in these types of cases," Upreti said. "They seem to focus more on protecting the pregnancy than really respecting the life and well-being of the child before them. A child was almost forced to give birth to a child."

Today, Upreti says she is "hopeful" about continued progress for women in India. Currently, the Center for Reproductive Rights places India in its third of four ascending tiers for the legal statuses of induced abortions worldwide.

Countries in this tier — including Great Britain, Finland, Zambia, and Japan — are considered more liberal for their tendency to grant abortions to women for socioeconomic reasons, such as contraceptive failure.
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