India’s top court allows 14-year-old rape survivor to abort to ‘protect her mental well-being’

Abortions are legal for all women in India, including rape survivors, until 24 weeks of pregnancy

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 22 April 2024 13:17 BST
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India's Supreme Court has allowed a 14-year-old rape survivor to terminate her almost 30-weeks pregnancy in a bid to "protect" the teenager.

The bench led by Chief Justice of India, Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, overturned a high court order that had prohibited the teenager from undergoing abortion at 28 weeks of pregnancy.

The judges on Monday allowed the abortion based on a hospital report, calling it an "exceptional case".

Abortions are legal for all women in India, including rape survivors, until 24 weeks of pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

The teenager's mother had moved the court after the Bombay High Court in the western state of Maharashtra declined to grant relief on 4 April.

The top court last week ordered a medical examination of the minor at the Sion hospital in Maharashtra after noting that the high court previously relied on a media report that did not contain the physical and mental status of the minor.

The medical board of six doctors examined the minor afresh and opined in favour of the termination.

The judges on Monday invoked Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to allow the abortion of the pregnancy, saying: "Every hour is crucial for her."

"... continuation of pregnancy against will of minor may impact negatively on the physical and mental well-being of the minor," Mr Chandrachud said.

He said the medical board opined that "while some risk is involved, the medical board opined that threat to life is not higher than the risk of full-term delivery".

The bench said: "These are very very exceptional cases where we have to protect children."

Any further medical care required post-termination of pregnancy should be in the interest of the minor, it added.

The survivor learned about the pregnancy in the late stage and a complaint of the rape was registered on 20 March, after the 24-week limit permissible, the court said.

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