Ensuring Reproductive Rights: Reform to Address Women's and Girls' Need for Abortion After 20 Weeks in India

In May 2017, the Supreme Court of India denied a medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) to Z., a 35-year old woman from Patna, Bihar living with HIV who became pregnant as a result of rape. Z. was homeless and discovered that she was 17 weeks pregnant and HIV positive when she was admitted into a government shelter. Although Indian law permits MTP until 20 weeks on several grounds, including rape and risks to the pregnant woman's health, Z.'s request for an abortion was denied by a government hospital which improperly demanded spousal and parental consent, despite the fact that the law requires neither for adult women. The hospital's refusal led Z. to file for permission from the High Court of Judicature at Patna, which denied her permission on reasoning that the Supreme Court on appeal stated was "completely erroneous." Although the Supreme Court recognized that Z.'s rights had been violated as the result of improper requirements imposed on her, she was ultimately denied an abortion because she was nearly 26 weeks pregnant by the time she was able to file the appeal.