A court in India issued a devastating decision Friday for the rights of late-term unborn babies.
The Times of India reports the Delhi High Court issued a ruling allowing unborn babies to be aborted after 20 weeks of pregnancy if fetal abnormalities are detected. It is not clear from reports if the ruling refers to only fatal fetal anomalies or any anomaly, no matter how small.
Abortions are illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in India, except when necessary to save the mother’s life. However, women and families increasingly have been petitioning the courts for permission to abort late-term unborn babies because of rape or fetal abnormalities.
The ruling on Friday expands the law to allow exceptions after 20 weeks for fetal anomalies. The justices made their ruling based on a petition filed by a pregnant mother whose unborn baby has enlarged kidneys and may not live long, according to the report. She is 25-weeks pregnant.
The woman’s lawyers argued that the 20-week ban is bad because women may “suffer excruciating pain and agony” in delivering a child with disabilities. They claimed the ban on abortions after 20 weeks is “arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of … the Constitution of India.”
Their argument wrongly implies that an unborn baby and mother will not suffer from an abortion, which intentionally destroys the baby’s life and can injure or kill the mother, too.
A late-term abortion is a very risky, multiple day procedure that can kill the mother as well as her unborn baby.
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However, the Delhi justices agreed with the petitioner.
“Seen thus, we are convinced that, even in a case where the condition of the foetus is, as in the present case, incompatible with life, the rigour of section 3(2) deserves to be relaxed, and the right to terminate the pregnancy cannot be denied merely because gestation has continued beyond 20 weeks,” the justices wrote in a decision released Friday. “Law, needless to say, cannot be construed in a manner incompatible with life.”
They also gave the woman permission to abort her unborn baby, according to the report.
India has a Supreme Court, and reports do not indicate how wide-spread the impact of the Delhi court decision may be or if there is a chance of an appeal.
In the past, courts in India have refused abortion petitions when unborn babies had conditions that are not fatal, such as Down syndrome. In early 2018, a Bombay court rejected a woman’s request for an abortion at 31 weeks because doctors said it was too risky.
Then in late 2018, another Indian court granted a rape victim’s petition for a late-term abortion, despite doctors’ warnings about serious risks to the teen’s health. The Hindustan Times reported the 16-year-old rape victim and her father asked the Delhi High Court for permission to have a late-term abortion. She was 22-weeks pregnant, past the abortion cutoff.