An Indian court has denied an abortion to a young girl who’d been allegedly sedated and raped by her doctor. On Thursday, a judge ruled that since the 14-year-old’s pregnancy has surpassed the legal time frame for an abortion, she must have the child. The unnamed girl is 24 weeks pregnant and the legal cutoff for termination is 20 weeks.
The girl’s father filed a petition in court, claiming his daughter was raped when a doctor she visited for a health checkup injected her with sedatives in February, in the Sabarkantha district where they live in western India. She became ill a few months after and visited the hospital, where they discovered she was pregnant. The doctor was arrested and held in custody, but has not yet been charged.
The girl’s father is a blue-collar laborer who works fixing tires “and does not have enough resources to take care of the child to be born,” says the family’s lawyer. They are still considering taking the case to a higher court.
“Whatever be the circumstances in which the child was conceived, whatever the trauma of the young mother, the fact remains that the child is also not to blame for being conceived,” the judge ruled. He ordered restitution paid to the victim by the government, awarding her the equivalent of $1,500. The child would likely be given up for adoption with the aid of local NGOs.
In 1971, India enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act that stipulates an abortion can be performed before 12 weeks with no legal implication for a doctor, and it could be performed before 20 weeks if two medical practitioners approve. In just the past four months, the province where the 14-year-old brought her case has seen multiple cases where a judge denied an abortion to vulnerable women because their pregnancies were too far along.
In April, a 24-year-old gang rape victim told the court a harrowing story: She had been abducted and raped by seven men over six months. When she escaped, she was already 28 weeks into her pregnancy—too late for an abortion, the court said. The mother of two said the shame had led her to be abandoned by her husband and in-laws. She was forced to give birth to a baby boy in July, which she gave up for adoption.
“She will have to bravely go ahead with the pregnancy and when time comes, she should deliver the child,” her judge said, adding that she must respect the law. “I am conscious of the fact that for a woman to carry a child in her womb as a result of conception through an act of rape is not only extremely traumatic for her but humiliating, frightening and psychologically devastating and as a human being, more particularly in the Indian society she becomes an object of scorn and ostracization.”
But the month before, a court did allow for an abortion to be carried out in the case of a 15-year-old girl raped by a man who had gotten in a fight with her father. The judge specifically noted that the timing of the action taken by the family—the girl was 12 weeks pregnant—was key to his approval.