An India high court gave a 15-year-old rape victim permission to have her unborn baby aborted Monday despite a medical board’s warnings about the risks of a late-term abortion.
First Post reports the Jamshedpur teen is 23-weeks pregnant with her unborn baby. By 23 weeks, unborn babies already have a chance of surviving outside the womb.
Abortions are illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in India. However, women or their families increasingly have been petitioning the high court for permission to abort their unborn babies after the limit, especially in cases involving fetal abnormalities or sexual assault.
On Monday, Jharkhand High Court granted the late-term abortion request; it also ordered that the baby’s body be preserved for DNA testing because the teen was raped, according to the report.
The teen underwent a medical examination by a board of doctors, and the board told the court that an abortion “was risky,” The Hindustan Times reports. However, the Jharkhand court said the medical board failed to clarify how risky the abortion would be, and ordered a new medical board to examine the teen.
The second board “submitted a report highlighting that medical termination of fetus of 23 weeks can be done under special circumstance with some medical/surgical and interventional risk as involved in any other normal case,” said lawyer Ram Subhag Singh, representing the rape survivor.
Based on the second board’s report, the court granted the late-term abortion request. It also ordered that the abortion procedure and transportation for the teen and her parents be paid for by the taxpayer-funded state government, the report states.
The unborn baby is scheduled to be aborted Tuesday, according to the report.
Indian courts increasingly have been granting late-term abortion requests to survivors of sexual assault, thereby creating second victims of the horrific abuse.
By 20 weeks, an unborn baby is almost fully formed and close to the point of viability (about 23 weeks). A late-term abortion also is a very risky, multiple day procedure that can kill the mother as well as her unborn baby. On the first day, the abortionist typically injects a poison into the unborn baby’s heart or head to kill them. They also begin to dilate the mother’s cervix to prepare for childbirth. On the third or fourth day, they induce labor and the mother gives birth to her dead baby.
Earlier in September, the Supreme Court of India gave a 13-year-old girl permission to abort her unborn baby at 32 weeks; however, the girl gave birth to a live baby. The baby boy died two days later, likely because his lungs were underdeveloped.
In September, the high court also allowed a 17-year-old rape survivor to abort her unborn baby past the 20-week limit. In that case, a medical board at the Bangalore Medical College and Research Centre recommended that she have an abortion for health reasons.
In May, the high court granted permission for a 10-year-old rape victim to have a late-term abortion when she was about 20 weeks pregnant, allegedly by her stepfather.
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 give birth to her baby.
Sexual abuse is a huge problem in India, with 20,000 cases of sexual assaults reported in 2015, according to government data reported by AFP. The high court has heard a number of requests for late-term abortions from families of young rape victims in the past few months.