Courts must let a 10-year-old rape survivor explore routes out of a full-term pregnancy.
A Chandigarh district court has turned down the abortion request of a 10-year-old rape survivor, who is 26 weeks pregnant. The law allows abortion until 20 weeks of gestation, with exceptions made for foetuses with genetic abnormalities. Last year, however, the Supreme Court allowed a rape survivor to terminate her 24-week pregnancy, but only because the pregnancy posed a risk to her health. In the present instance, the district court seems to be caught between the devil and deep sea. A normal termination involving inducing labour would carry grave risks, including haemorrhaging. But a full-term pregnancy is equally fraught, given the girl isn’t physiologically developed. Doctors, as per The Times of India, have opined that even a Caesarian section can’t be conclusively termed safe. That said, termination through hysterotomy (surgical opening of the womb through an abdominal incision that is smaller than is typical in C-section) has been opted for in second trimester abortions. Three gynaecologists from PGIMER, Chandigarh, reported in a 2012 paper that there was a 17% rate of morbidity and a 10% rate of serious morbidity associated with it. Whether it is safe to play these odds in the present case or not is for medical experts to say. But, surely, the girl needs a way out of the trauma a full-term pregnancy entails for her unready body and mind.
Legal sanction for abortion, in the normal course, must weigh several ethical and medical considerations. But, in cases such as the present one, let medical reasons be the sole determinant. So, if there are safer methods to walk free of the pregnancy, the girl must be allowed to explore these—with perhaps even aid from the state. An inflexible reading of the abortion law will do untold damage.