Delhi HC helps rape survivors aged 16 years to stop pregnancy

Delhi HC on August 10 allowed a rape victim, a minor, to terminate her 22-week pregnancy, following the report of a medical board set up by Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital.The court clarified that the order is subject to reports of further blood tests, required to assess if there is any additional risk to the girl.

According to Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, terminating a pregnancy is not permitted if the gestation period is more than 20 weeks. An amendment to the act, in the form of a bill, was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 2, 2020, to increase the gestation period to 24 weeks. However, it has not been passed by the House yet.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru said that the pregnancy would be terminated only if there is no added risk. Earlier, the court had directed the medical superintendent of RML Hospital to constitute a medical board to examine the girl and report whether terminating the pregnancy would involve a risk to her.

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“This court considers it apposite to allow the present petition and direct that the petitioner (girl) be admitted to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and the necessary procedures be carried out for termination of the pregnancy,” justice Bakhru said.

The court passed the order while hearing a plea by the 16-year-old rape survivor. The girl approached the Delhi HC seeking direction to the Delhi government and a hospital to terminate her pregnancy.

During the video conference hearing, the judge interacted with the girl and her father and noted that the minor was under considerable distress and her father was insistent that the pregnancy be terminated as well. The court said the risks of terminating the pregnancy have been explained to the girl and her father.

The doctors, who had joined the virtual hearing, had told the court that the girl was in considerable distress and the clinical psychologist had also reported that carrying the foetus to term would result in psychological complications.

“In view of the report and psychological assessment of the petitioner (girl), it does appear that she is at considerable risk of psychological complications if the pregnancy is continued. The doctors concerned have explained that there may be some risks in terminating the pregnancy but they are not higher than what is acceptable and expected at this stage,” the court said.

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