Supreme Court allows 14-year-old pregnant rape survivor to undergo abortion

 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed a 14-year-old rape survivor to undergo an abortion at over 29 weeks of pregnancy, underlining that continuing the pregnancy may harm the physical and mental health of the girl. “These are very, very exceptional cases where we have to protect the children…every passing hour is very crucial for her,” said a bench led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, directing for safe abortion of the minor.

In a late Friday evening session beyond the regular court hours, the bench, also comprising Justice JB Pardiwala, directed Mumbai’s Sion Hospital to immediately determine whether continuing the pregnancy could endanger the physical or mental health of the girl or the foetus, and to report back by Monday (April 22).

The girl’s mother rushed to the Supreme Court after the Bombay high court on April 4 declined the request for a medical termination of the pregnancy.

Additional solicitor-general Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, on Monday urged the bench to invoke its extraordinary powers under Article 142 to do complete justice in the case, citing the medical report that noted that continuing the pregnancy may impact the minor’s well-being.

Accepting her plea, the court exercised its power under Article 142 to order immediate termination of the pregnancy of the minor, specifying her age and the alleged sexual assault. “Bearing in mind the exigency of the situation and well-being of the minor, we set aside the order of the Bombay high court,” said the bench, directing a panel of doctors at Sion’s Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital in Mumbai to carry out the termination of pregnancy.

The counsel appearing for the Maharashtra government undertook to bear the medical expenses for the medical procedure.

For its order on April 4, the high court went by an examination of a medical board of Mumbai’s JJ Hospital’s doctors. But the petition argued that the girl had not been adequately examined, urging for the Supreme Court’s involvement.

The bench on Friday noted the absence of a detailed assessment of the girl’s physical and mental condition in the medical reports, emphasising the need for such consideration given the traumatic circumstances of her pregnancy.

The court on that day instructed that a medical board of doctors at Sion Hospital would evaluate on Saturday (April 20) the implications of continuing pregnancy on the minor’s health, considering the sexual assault she endured.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, abortions past 24 weeks are typically prohibited unless the pregnancy poses a severe threat to the woman’s life or involves substantial fetal abnormalities.

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