India: Abortion: It’s every woman’s right to choose

Abortion: It’s every woman’s right to choose
According to the latest estimates published in the December issue of The Lancet, in 2015, a staggering 15.6 million abortions occurred in India. Of these 15.6 million abortions, 73% were sought outside health facilities. While unsafe abortions in the country have reduced significantly, about eight lakh women still resort to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Jan 06, 2018
Soli Sorabjee

Last year, in what is considered a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that individual privacy is a “guaranteed fundamental right”. The nine-judge bench ruled that the right to privacy is comprised in the right to life and liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution. This judgment will have significant implications for the protection of citizens’ personal freedom against intrusions by the State. While the furore about privacy and its breach began with the linking of Aadhaar numbers with various programmes, the judgment addressed several other issues that the bench believed came under the ambit of privacy. Recognising a woman’s prerogative to make decisions about her health and body, the bench ruled that “there is no doubt that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of ‘personal liberty’ as guaranteed under Article 21.

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India: In a first, HC OKs abortion of 25-week fetus

In a first, HC OKs abortion of 25-week fetus
Swati Deshpande | TNN | Nov 7, 2017

MUMBAI: Less than a month after the Supreme Court said women could directly approach the high courts for termination beyond 20 weeks of pregnancies with foetal abnormalities, the Bombay high court on Monday for the first time granted permission to a 28-year-old who is over 25 weeks pregnant.

Mumbai's Priti Rawal moved court last Friday when she was over 22 weeks pregnant, saying her fetus had multiple neurological and skeletal abnormalities, which reduced its survival chances at birth.

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India: Supreme Court upholds woman’s right to abort

Supreme Court upholds woman's right to abort
Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN
Updated: Oct 28, 2017

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has dismissed a man's petition seeking damages from his estranged wife for undergoing abortion without his consent, and ruled that an adult woman had an unimpeachable right to give birth or terminate pregnancy.

Terming the abortion, to which he had objected, "illegal", the husband had also demanded compensation from the woman's parents and brother, and two doctors. The Punjab and Haryana high court had dismissed the husband's plea saying termination of pregnancy was the sole prerogative of the woman .

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India: Woman undergoes abortion in 30th week of pregnancy at JJ hospital

Woman undergoes abortion in 30th week of pregnancy at JJ hospital

Woman’s foetus had been diagnosed with multiple congenital defects. The newborn, weighing 900 gms, survived for a few minutes after birth before succumbing to multiple complications.

Published: September 12, 2017

WITH the judiciary emerging as the only avenue for pregnant women over 20 weeks in gestation whose foetuses are diagnosed with an anomaly, the city is seeing a rise in the number of petitions seeking medical termination of pregnancy filed in the apex court. In the latest case, a Dubai-based pregnant woman, detected with several anomalies in her foetus, underwent an emergency pregnancy termination at JJ Hospital on Monday following Supreme Court orders.

Continued at source: Indian Woman undergoes abortion in 30th week of pregnancy at JJ hospital

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India: Rape Survivors’ Right to Abortion: Are Doctors Listening?

Rape Survivors’ Right to Abortion: Are Doctors Listening?
By Padma D. and Sangeeta R.
Sep 8, 2017

Recent amendments to the rape laws have made it mandatory for all hospitals to provide immediate treatment to survivors of rape. An abortion is an essential element of such care.

What is the ethical and legal responsibility of doctors when it comes to abortion for pregnant rape survivors? Credit: Reuters

The news of rape survivors, especially children, being denied abortion has been in the public eye for some time. First it was a ten-year-old rape survivor, 28 weeks pregnant, and the second was a 13-year-old child, 26 weeks pregnant, both reaching medical institutions/doctors but being turned away by the medical system owing to the advanced stages of pregnancy. Both appealed to the Supreme Court to seek permission for abortion. The court did not allow an abortion for the ten-year-old child, compelling her to proceed with the pregnancy, while the 13-year-old child has been allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
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INDIA – Need an abortion: join the long march to the Supreme Court in Delhi

INDIA – Need an abortion: join the long march to the Supreme Court in Delhi

by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Sep 1, 2017

The Supreme Court on Friday said that a minor rape victim should not be forced to knock the doors of the court for getting permission to terminate her pregnancy arising out of any sexual offence.

On 25 August, the Supreme Court ruled that a rape victim who is a minor should not be forced to knock on the doors of the Court for permission to terminate her pregnancy arising out of any sexual offence. This was in response to an appeal for compensation for the 10-year-old girl who recently underwent a caesarean section after being denied an abortion by two courts. The Supreme Court judges also favoured the setting up of a trust for the girl’s benefit. The Justices said that crucial time had been wasted in court proceedings, so that it was thought to be too late and risky to allow an abortion in her case. The court also said that in such cases, medical practitioners should take pro-active steps to come to the rescue of the victim.

However, the Court also agreed with senior advocate Indira Jaising, who contended that continuing the pregnancy was also life threatening in a minor girl and it was the duty of the doctors to allow her to undergo abortion. “The provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act are not properly understood by doctors and they are afraid to help the victims with abortion, fearing criminal prosecution under Section 312 of Indian Penal code,” she said.

But if you thought that this was the end of having to go to the courts for permission for an abortion for a child whose pregnancy is beyond 20 weeks, think again.

After a brief hearing, the bench said that it would examine the larger issue pertaining to minor rape victims and asked Jaising to submit a scheme for creating a trust or foundation to take care of the 10-year old child. The court said that money would be deposited in the trust which would meet medical and day-to-day requirement of the victim, her child and family members.

The bench also directed that identity of the victim, her child and her family members would not be made public and ordered that her medical report be kept in a sealed cover. It also directed Chandigarh’s legal service authority to immediately disburse amount of Rs one lakh to her.

The girl had been raped several times, allegedly by her maternal uncle. She and her family members came to know about her pregnancy when she went to see the doctors for stomach pain and by that time the foetus was about 26-week old.

On 10 August, the Supreme Court set up a medical board to examine the condition of a 20-year-old Pune-based woman who was seeking permission to abort a 24-26-week pregnancy where the fetus was anencephalic. The medical board said “there was no medical treatment for the anomaly” and “the survival rate was minimal”. So the court allowed the abortion.

On 28 August, Sneha Mukherjee, a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Network, petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of the parents of a pregnant 13-year-old rape victim from Mumbai for permission for an abortion for her. At that point, the girl was 30 weeks pregnant. The pregnancy had been discovered when her parents took her to a doctor on 9 August, for treatment for obesity. The Court called for an immediate medical panel to examine the girl and give their opinion. The decision was scheduled for 31 August, but at this writing, no decision had been announced.

Most recently, on 30 August, Dr Rishma D Pai, President of the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), went public on the issue (though only with her personal opinion) and said access to safe abortion should be made every woman’s right. She wrote: “Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a woman seeking to abort her 26-week fetus with a congenital defect. The bench stated that a woman has the “sacrosanct right to her bodily integrity”. The judge leading the bench also stated that “the right of a woman to have a reproductive choice is the right of personal liberty”. After explaining how the 1971 abortion law restricts abortions after 20 weeks and forces so many girls and women to seek court permission, which seems to be denied almost as often as it is provided, she concludes:

It saddens me to know that a woman dies every two hours due to unsafe abortions in our country. This is despite abortion being legal in India for several decades. In fact, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, unsafe abortions are the third-leading cause of maternal deaths in India.”

One aspect of the problem, which is not getting a proper airing, is that the medical panels set up to advise the courts may put forward views on abortion that reveal a lack of knowledge and experience of post-20 week abortions and even anti-abortion sentiments. This may be one reason why some girls and women beyond 20 weeks are permitted an abortion and others are not.

For example, in a judgment of 9 May 2017, the Supreme Court refused an abortion to a woman who had become pregnant as a result of rape. She had initially requested an abortion when she was 17 weeks pregnant. After significant delays at the government hospital, she eventually went to the High Court, which rejected her plea. When her case reached the Supreme Court, she was 26 weeks pregnant. The barriers she encountered throughout illustrate the need for supporting guidelines for medical providers and courts, to clarify the legal entitlements of survivors of rape and sexual abuse, Hanna Kofman, JD, says. The Supreme Court based its decision on the opinion of the medical panel that at 26 weeks the abortion procedure posed a risk to the life of the woman and the fetus. This is hard to fathom. A 26-week abortion is not unsafe as such and it is almost always safer than continuing the pregnancy. To introduce protecting the fetus denies the possibility of abortion completely. The Court held that the woman was entitled to 300,000 rupees compensation from the State of Bihar for the delays she encountered. But nothing was said about their own and the medical panel’s failed responsibility in denying her an abortion.

The Solicitor General of India, Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the judges that the Government had, in accordance with the apex court’s earlier direction, communicated to all states and union territories to constitute medical boards and have them in place to deal with such abortion matters. But the need for appropriate qualifications for those on such panels was not mentioned in the news report. Nor was the policy questioned in spite of the delay that the Supreme Court clearly identified as being the result of medical panels and court cases.

SOURCES: Times of India, by Amit Anand Chaudhary, 25 August 2017 ; BBC, 28 August 2017 ; The Hindu, 29 August 2017 ; DNA India, by Dr Rishma D Pai, 30 August 2017 ; Hanna Kofman, ReproHealthLaw Blog, 31 August 2017 ; PHOTO



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India: Abortion plea: SC sets up medical board at JJ

Abortion plea: SC sets up medical board at JJ
August 29, 2017

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday set up a medical board to examine the condition of a 13-year-old rape survivor who is seeking permission to abort her 30-week-old foetus.

A Bench comprising Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao directed that a medical board would be constituted at the Sir JJ Group of Hospitals to examine the minor girl and ascertain the condition and advisability of permitting abortion. “The aforesaid board shall submit a report about the condition and advisability of permitting a medical termination of pregnancy of the petitioner’s daughter forthwith,” the Bench said, and fixed the matter for hearing on August 31.

Continued at source: The Hindu:

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India: Right to Safe Abortion

Right to Safe Abortion

Suchitra Dalvie is Coordinator, The Asia Safe Abortion Partnership.
Aug 15, 2017

The case of the 10 year old victim of rape who is pregnant and awaiting delivery after being denied permission to abort by the courts is an urgent indication that all stakeholders must come together and find a solution for unwanted pregnancies which present after 20 weeks.

Even as the 10-year old pregnant girl whose case has been widely reported in the media awaits deli­very in a hospital in Chandigarh, a 12-year old girl in Mumbai has been found to be 27 weeks pregnant. Both are victims of rape by men known to their families. The first was assaulted over seven months by her uncle while in the latter’s case it was a man who worked with her father and rented a room from the family.

Continued at source: Economic and Political Weekly:

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India – Sexual abuse of girls followed by refusal of abortion: adding insult to injury

India – Sexual abuse of girls followed by refusal of abortion: adding insult to injury
Aug 4, 2017
by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

On 28 July, the case of a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after being sexual abused by her uncle hit the news in India. According to reports, the family approached the district court in Chandigarh for permission for the child to have an abortion in the first part of July. It took until 15 July for the judge to order a medical board to examine the girl and submit a report on the feasibility of an abortion. Yet the feasibility of an abortion should never have been in question.

To make matters worse, the response of the medical board was clinically inaccurate and in some remarks seemed to be anti-abortion. They made doing an abortion appear to be more dangerous than if the child carried the pregnancy to term. And it led the judge, who seemed not to know better, to refuse the abortion.

Continued at source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion:

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Indian court rejects abortion for 10-year-old rape victim

Indian court rejects abortion for 10-year-old rape victim

28 July 2017

India's Supreme Court has refused to allow an abortion for a 10-year-old girl, allegedly raped by her uncle, on the grounds that she is too far into her pregnancy.

A doctors' panel told the court that, at 32 weeks, termination of the pregnancy would be "too risky".

Her pregnancy was discovered two weeks ago when she complained of stomach ache and her parents took her to hospital. A lower court had earlier turned down her plea on similar grounds.

Continued at source: BBC:

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