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Medical Panel in India Grants Legal Abortion to Pregnant 14-Year-Old Rape Survivor

(PRESS RELEASE) Four gynecologists informed the Supreme Court of India today that they determined a 14-year-old rape survivor, known as X, should receive a legal abortion.

Dr. Riddhi Shukla who examined the young girl said that continuing with the pregnancy “will pose a great risk for her given her current mental and physical condition” and noted that the girl is “physically and medically too weak to deliver a child.”

X, who will finally receive the abortion services she needs on July 31, was allegedly raped by a doctor treating her for typhoid earlier this year and only discovered the pregnancy at the end of June. The High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad denied her a legal abortion since she was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. The Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal and requested a medical panel examine X to determine whether there was an immediate threat to her life as required by law for an abortion.

Said Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“No young girl should ever be forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape.”

“The medical panel rightfully recognized the critical health needs of this young rape survivor and the clear risks to her life. Now she will finally get the safe and quality care she deserves.

“India must allow survivors of rape timely access to safe abortion services. X’s case makes it clear that the government must recognize the reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity of women and girls—not just defer to medical experts to make decisions for them.

“The government must amend its current law so no other woman or girl is subjected to these unnecessary and harmful delays and to ensure women and girls have greater autonomy over their reproductive health and lives.”

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 abortion is only legal within 20 weeks of pregnancy—including in cases of grave injury to physical or mental health, rape, incest, fetal impairment and contraceptive failure—or any time during a pregnancy where it is “immediately necessary” to save the life of a pregnant woman. Decades later, over half of the more than 6 million abortions that take place each year are unsafe according to the Abortion Assessment Project-India.

This is not the first time that the Gujarat High Court has denied a young rape survivor an abortion. This case underscores the urgent need to adopt proposed amendments to permit abortion at least up to 24 weeks, still under review by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

 

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