NEW DELHI -- A 14-year-old rape survivor can terminate her pregnancy if it posed a great risk to her life, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. The Gujarat teenager had been refused permission by two lower courts to go forward with the abortion of her 23-weeks old foetus, even though it would seriously hamper her health if she remained pregnant.
Ruling that an abortion was legal if it was necessary to save her life, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu on Tuesday overruled the earlier decision by the trial court and Gujarat high court.
The class 10 student had been denied permission to abort earlier as it was "too late" under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which said that medical termination should be within 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the apex court has recommended that instead a panel of four senior gynaecologists should examine the girl on July 30 in Ahmedabad and give their medical opinion in the matter. One of these doctors has already recommended an abortion when she examined the teenager last week.
According to a report filed by Dr. Riddhi Shukla on July 25, she said, "When I examined and talked to her, I found her mentally and psychologically devastated and completely broken down. She is also physically and medically too weak to deliver a child. Pregnancy at this age and situation can lead to serious threat to her life."
The teenager had been allegedly raped by a doctor who was treating her for typhoid earlier this year. In February, she discovered that she had become pregnant. When her family approached the lower court for permission to terminate the foetus, they were turned down. They filed an appeal in the high court, which was turned down as well. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter on an urgent basis today.
When the High Court had refused permission for termination of pregnancy on July 24, it had ruled that the baby was innocent and "did not ask to be born".
Calling it a "difficult decision", Justice Abhilasha Kumari had said, "Whatever be the circumstances in which the child was conceived, whatever the trauma of the young mother, the fact remains that the child is also not to blame for being conceived."