A young rape victim whose unborn baby is far past the point of viability cannot have an abortion, a Bombay, India court ruled Monday.
The court rejected the 17-year-old’s request for a late-term abortion after a panel of doctors said the abortion could threaten the young woman’s life, the Hindustan Times reports.
She is 28-weeks pregnant, and her unborn baby is healthy and developed enough to survive outside the womb, according to the Times of India.
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.
At 20 weeks, an unborn baby is nearly fully formed and close to the point of viability (about 22 weeks). Later-term abortions also are risky and can be deadly for the mother.
The young woman is a college student in Satara, India, according to the report. Earlier this year, she allegedly was raped by an acquaintance at her grandparents’ home, the report states. Authorities said the perpetrator, who is not named in reports, has been charged with sexual assault.
It is unclear why the young woman waited so long for an abortion.
A panel of six medical experts who examined the teen said her baby is healthy, and an abortion at this late stage could pose a serious risk to the young woman’s life.
Here’s more from the Hindustan Times:
In the court on Monday, advocate Kuldeep Nikam pleaded that the girl would face mental trauma for life if she were forced to complete the full term of the pregnancy and deliver the baby. He said that even after informing the petitioner and her parents of the court’s suggestions, they preferred terminating the pregnancy.
The state, through government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani, submitted that the dean of the medical college had assured of providing the survivor proper care till the baby was delivered. He said if the mother did not want the baby after it was born, it would be handed over to the child welfare committee which would give it up for adoption.
After hearing all submissions, the court said it could not permit the termination in light of the medical panel’s report.
In August, another Indian court spared a young rape victim and her unborn baby from a late-term abortion for similar reasons. A medical panel ruled that the abortion would be too dangerous for the 15-year-old victim. She was 25 weeks pregnant with her unborn baby.
Increasingly, Indian courts have been granting late-term abortion exceptions to women who are victims of rape or whose unborn babies have disabilities. In cases of fetal anomalies, the courts seem to base their decisions on the unborn child’s likelihood of dying soon after birth and significant risks to the mother’s health.
In the past, the courts have refused several cases where the babies had treatable conditions, such as Down syndrome. In January, a Bombay court rejected a woman’s request for an abortion at 31 weeks because doctors said it was too risky.