Medical Board Meeting to Determine if Woman Can Abort Her 23-Week-Old Disabled Baby

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 23, 2017   |   4:09PM   |   New Delhi, India

Another pregnant woman has petitioned the Supreme Court of India to allow her to abort her unborn baby past the 20-week abortion limit.

The woman, who is 23 weeks pregnant, recently found out that her unborn baby had a congenital defect, according to the ANI news service.

Abortions are illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in India, except when the mother’s life is at risk. However, women increasingly have been petitioning the high court for permission to abort their late-term unborn babies because the babies were diagnosed with abnormalities. Some families of young rape victims also have made requests to the high court for late-term abortions.

In the latest case, the high court ordered a medical board to consider the Kolkata woman’s case, according to the report. The woman’s name is not mentioned, and it is not clear if her unborn baby’s condition is fatal. At 23 weeks, her unborn baby already has a chance of surviving outside the womb. However, it should not matter whether the baby has a fatal defect or is viable; the unborn baby is a valuable human being who deserves protection and care until their natural death.

In past requests for late-term abortions, the India court and medical boards considered the likelihood of the unborn baby dying from his/her condition, the age of the unborn baby and the risks to the mother’s life.

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In February, the India high court rejected another woman’s request for a late-term abortion because her unborn baby has Down syndrome. The Free Press Journal reports the court said the woman’s life was not at risk and her baby should not be aborted simply because of the genetic disorder. The woman was 26 weeks pregnant at the time, past the point when her unborn baby was viable outside the womb.

“It is sad that the child may suffer from physical and mental challenges and it’s unfortunate for the mother but we can’t allow an abortion…We have a life in our hands,” the court said in that case.

Last year, however, the high court did give a woman permission to have her late-term unborn baby aborted after she conceived the baby in rape and doctors detected a potentially fatal abnormality, LifeNews reported.

Then, in a heartbreaking case in May, a medical board established by the court granted permission for a late-term abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim. Dr. Ashok Chauhan, a panelist in the case, described the situation as “borderline” because the girl was about 20 weeks pregnant. The panel also mentioned concerns about the young girl’s health.

At 20 weeks, an unborn baby already is fully formed and close to the point of viability (about 23 weeks). Late-term abortions also are risky and can be deadly for the mother as well as her unborn child.

Most countries prohibit late-term abortions on viable, unborn babies. The United States and Canada are among the few exceptions.