The Supreme Court of India has been creating new precedents for when women may abort their late-term unborn babies.
Abortions are illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in India, except when the woman’s life is at risk. However, women increasingly have been petitioning the high court for permission to abort their unborn babies after the 20-week mark. Some cases have involved fetal abnormalities, while others involved young rape victims.
In the latest case, the court gave a woman who is 25-weeks pregnant permission to have her unborn baby aborted on Monday, according to NDTV. The 33-year-old woman is from Kolkata, but her name and her unborn baby’s sex are not identified in the reports.
The high court ruled that the baby can be aborted because the baby has a severe congenital heart defect and may die at birth or require multiple surgeries to survive. The judges also said the woman would suffer “severe mental injury” if she gives birth to her child, according to the report.
The judges told the woman that she may abort her unborn baby, but she must do it as soon as possible. The court made the recommendation based on a medical board’s review of the woman and her unborn baby. Some news reports say the woman now is 26 weeks pregnant.
The high court appears to be paving the way for new, broader abortion laws in the Asian nation. In the past few years, it has given several women permission to abort their unborn babies past the 20-week legal limit. The court’s decisions in these cases have been based on the likelihood of the unborn baby dying from his/her condition and the woman’s physical and emotional health.
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In February, the India high court rejected another woman’s request for a late-term abortion because her unborn baby had 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 child 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 gave a woman permission to have her late-term unborn baby aborted after she conceived the baby in rape and doctors detected a potentially fatal fetal abnormality, LifeNews reported. In January, it granted another exception to a woman whose late-term unborn baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, a brain malformation that typically is fatal, LifeNews reported.
Then, in a heartbreaking case in May, a medical board established by the court allowed a 10-year-old rape victim to have a late-term abortion. 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 physical and mental health.
Similarly, in 2015, the India Supreme Court also gave an exception to a 14-year-old rape victim who was past 20 weeks pregnant. At the time, the BBC reported a team of doctors decided the girl was not physically or emotionally fit to have a baby.
As LifeNews previously reported, the first judge involved in the case, Abhilasha Kumari, ruled differently. He said it was a difficult decision but concluded that the unborn baby is innocent just like the victim.
Kumari 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. It did not ask to be born. The child is innocent, just like the victim, its mother.”
However, the India Supreme Court overturned his ruling and allowed the unborn baby to be aborted.
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.