Pratigya Statement on 10 year-old rape survivor being denied abortion

We the members of Pratigya – Campaign for Gender Equality and Safe Abortion are distraught and saddened by the recent news of a 10 year-old old rape survivor having to carry the pregnancy to term, due to delay in determining if she is eligible for a medical termination of pregnancy.

This 10 year-old girl was raped by her uncle and by the time her family realized that she was pregnant and sought medical assistance, the pregnancy was beyond the 20 week-limit permitted under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. The provider/medical institution from where she sought assistance for safe abortion, sought permission from the district court to provide her an abortion. A medical board, consisting of experts from Government Medical College and Hospital Chandigarh, examined her and submitted its opinion regarding termination of the pregnancy. Apart from the fact the pregnancy was of 26 week gestation, we are unaware what the opinion was. Following this, the 10 year old was denied an abortion. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court, which requested a newly constituted medical board at PGIMER to conduct a second assessment and provide an opinion. In this process further precious time was lost. On re-examination, the medical board found that the gestation was around 32 weeks and a medical intervention at this stage could be life threatening. Based on the findings, the honorable Supreme Court reluctantly denied therapeutic termination of pregnancy.

We would like to draw attention to the fact that the MTP Act allows the termination of pregnancies beyond 20 weeks by a registered medical practitioner “in case he is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the termination of such pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant women”. Even the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes voluntary miscarriage, permits abortion that is done in good faith to save the life of the pregnant women. This  case of a 10 year-old girl, we believe falls in the category of  saving the life of the pregnant women and in good faith the provider/institution should have offered her an abortion when she/her family sought medical assistance.  A pragmatic interpretation of the law by the provider, would have prevented the unfortunate situation of a 10 year-old girl carrying a pregnancy to term and risking her health and life.

Increasing numbers of women/providers are now approaching the Courts to seek approval for abortions over 20 weeks. In all these instances it is either due to fetal anomalies that are detected late and/or cases of sexual assault and rape, particularly of minors, where doctors are unwilling to provide abortions irrespective of gestational stage.  This has led to delaying access to safe abortion care, subjecting women and girls to repeated examination by medical boards and at times denial of services. We strongly believe that subjecting women and girls to these unwarranted processes is stigmatizing them and is a violation of their rights.

We urge that the health system in general and service providers in particular:

  1. Interpret the law to the fullest extent, in cases where continuation of pregnancy is a risk to the woman’s life. This will ensure that women are able to access safe abortions guaranteed under existing laws. When providers are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the continuation of pregnancy is risk to the woman/minor’s life, offer abortion services even when the pregnancy is over 20 weeks, rather than seek judicial intervention.
  2. That women and girls are not unnecessarily required to undergo examination by medical boards. The opinion of the doctor from whom the abortion has been sought should suffice. This would ensure that the women’s dignity is respected and enable them seek safe abortion care without fear of being stigmatized.
  3. While supporting and applauding the efforts of the govt. and civil society organizations in preventing sex-selection and protecting children from sexual abuse, we urge that abortion and abortion providers are not stigmatized and women continue to have access to safe abortion services to the fullest extent of the law. Government and civil society groups working to implement the PCPNDT Act and working on preventing sex-selection take care to ensure that their communications and actions do not result in stigmatizing abortion and abortion providers and women’s access to safe abortion care is not compromised.
  4. We would strongly urge that the proposed amendments to the MTP Act which include extending the gestation period to 24 weeks for vulnerable categories of women; no gestation limit to apply in cases of fetal abnormality incompatible with life and expanding the provider base to trained and certified AYUSH doctors, Nurses and Auxiliary Nurse mid-wives to provide early abortions using medication method be taken up on priority.

We welcome the Honorable Supreme Court’s directive to the Government to provide the girl with the required support in managing the situation she faces.  We would urge the government to implement this directive in letter and spirit.

It is vital that there is serious introspection amongst all the stakeholders, government, doctors, legal community and civil society organizations to determine what can be the best way forward to prevent such unfortunate situations for women and girls in future. Adopting the proposed amendments to the MTP Act at the earliest will provide a solution.  In the meantime, we recommend that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, in consultation with stakeholders, develop a standard protocol that can draw on existing provisions of the law to provide clarity to providers and families on how to provide and seek abortion services in such cases with the view to reducing the time lag which causes not just the denial of a service but undue trauma. The honorable Supreme Court has suggested the possibility of setting up permanent medical boards to examine such issues to prevent delays.

We believe that if providers interpret existing laws in the interest of women, the proposed amendments to the MTP Act is passed, the current environment of fear and stigmatizing of abortions is addressed and appropriate guidance provided the need for judicial intervention or permanent medical boards would not be required.  We believe that a decision of terminating a pregnancy, as provided by existing laws, is the right of the women, including minors (with the consent of their guardian) and  asking them to seek approval from a medical board would be an infringement of their rights.

For more information please contact:  secretariat@pratigyacampaing.org

logoa network of individuals and organizations that have been working at the national and state level on issues of women’s empowerment and enabling women’s access to healthcare services. Pratigya focuses upon finding common ground that simultaneously addresses the serious issue of gender biased sex selection while protecting women’s right to safe, legal abortion services in India.

This statement is endorsed by the following organizations and individuals:

1 Action Research and Training for Health, Rajasthan
Address: G1-2,Satyam,Ramgiri,Badgaon,Udaipur,Rajasthan-313011
Phone Number: 0294-2980075 | Email ID: arthindia@gmail.com | Website: http://arth.in/
2 Arpan Society, Punjab
Address: Near Govt. Primary School, Dobhetta. Tehsil: Nangal, Ropar, Punjab-140124
Phone Number: +91-9417563054 | Email ID: arpansociety@gmail.com
3 Cehat, Maharashtra
Address: Survey No.2804 & 2805, Aaram Society Road, Vakola, Santacruz East, Mumbai-400055
Phone Number: 022-26673571 | Email Id: padma.deosthali@gmail.com | Website: www.cehat.org/
4 CREA, New Delhi
Address: CREA New Delhi, 7 Mathura Road, 2nd Floor,Jangpura B, New Delhi-110014
Phone Number: 011-24377707/2437 8700 | Email Id: rmallik@creaworld.org | Website: www.creaworld.org
5  Global Health Strategies Emerging Economies Pvt.Ltd., New Delhi
Address: 18/1, 4th Floor, Shaheed Bhawan ,Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi – 110067
Phone Number: 011-46564590 | Email Id: SKapoor@globalhealthstrategies.com | Website: www.globalhealthstrategies.com/
6  Family Planning Association of India, Maharashtra
Address: Jamnalal Bajaj Rd, Nariman Point, Mumbai, Maharashtra-400001
Phone Number: 022-40863144 | Email Id:  kalpanaapte@fpaindia.org | Website: www.fpaindia.org/
7 Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India, New Delhi
Address: B-37, Gulmohar Park, New Delhi-110049
Phone Number: 011-49840000 | Email Id: Chandra@frhsi.org.in
8 Gramin Punarnirman Sansthan (GPS), UP
Address: Village- Bilarii, Post- Barhya, District Azamgarh, UP-223223
Phone Number: +91-9451113651 | Email Id: gps.azm@gmail.com
9 Hidden Pockets, New Delhi
Address: 71-B, Pocket B, Dilshad Garden, New Delhi- 110095
Phone Number: +91-9711277383 | Email Id: hiddenpocketsinfo@gmail.com
10 Ipas Development Foundation, New Delhi
Address: E-63, Vasant Marg, Block E, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi-110057
Phone Number: 011-46068888 | Email Id: manningv@ipas.org | Website: http://ipasdevelopmentfoundation.org/
11 Institute for Social Research & Development (ISRD), Chandigarh
Address: # 1110, Sector 15-B, Chandigarh-160015
Phone Number: 011-46068888 | Email Id: isrdchd@gmail.com | Website: www.isrdchd.org
12 Janani, Bihar
Address: Shree Nilyam, House No.-2, Patliputra Colony, Near Sahyog Hospital, Patna – 800013 (India)
Phone Number: 0612-2276633 | Email Id: patna@janani.org | Website: www.janani.org
13 Mahila Atma Surksha Sansthan, UP
Address: 535/106 Kha Fatehpur, Aliganj, Lucknow
Phone Number: +91-8957023846 | Email Id: shardagudia@gmail.com
14 Mahila Gramodyog Seva Samiti, UP
Address: Jamin Baramadpur, Muhammadabad Gohana, District-Mau, UP
Phone Number: 0547-2320385 | Email Id: mgss_radhika@yahoo.co.in | Website: www.mgssindia.ngo
15 National Alliance on Maternal Health and Human Rights
Address: Second Floor, G-66, Saket, New Delhi-17
Phone Number: 011-26851101 | Email Id: sana@chsj.org | Website: http://www.chsj.org/namhhr.html
16 Parivar Seva Sanstha, New Delhi
Address: Parivar Seva Sanstha, C-374, Defence Colony, New Delhi-110024
Phone Number: 011-24337712 | Email Id:sudha.tewari@parivarseva.org | Website: www.parivarseva.org
17 Population First, Mumbai
Address: 101,Mahatma Gandhi Road Mantralaya, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra- 400001
Phone Number: 022-22626672 Email Id: alsharda2002@yahoo.com | Website: www.populationfirst.org
18 Population Foundation of India, New Delhi
Address: B-28, Qutab Institutional Area, Tara Crescent, New Delhi- 110016
Phone Number:011-43894100 | Email Id: pmuttreja@populationfoundation.in | Website: www.populationfoundation.in
19 Population Health Services(India)
Address: M.C.H. No. 6-3-1090/1/1, Units No. A, B, C, & D, 4th Floor,  Uma Hyderabad House , Rajbhavan Road, Somajiguda, Hyderabad – 500082
Phone Number: 040-30680659Email Id: vivek@phsiindia.org | Website: http://phsindia.org
20 PSI India Pvt. Ltd
Address: Ground Floor, No.8, Balaji Estate, Guru Ravi Dass Marg, Kalkaji, New Delhi -110019
Email Id: shankara@psi.org.in
21 SAHAJ
Address: A-3, Ayodhyayapuri, Behind Nisarg Flats, Diwalipura, Old Padra Road, Vadodara-390015, Gujarat, India
Phone Number: 0265-2358307Email Id:  renu.cmnhsa@gmail.com | Website: http://www.sahaj.org.in/
22 SAMAYAK, Pune
Address: B-3/14, Damodar Nagar, Hingne (Khurd), Singhgad Road, Pune- 411051
Phone Number: +91-9850516237 | Email Id: anandpawar@gmail.com | Website: http://www.samyakindia.org
23 Shikshit Rojgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti (SRKPS), Rajasthan
Address: 1/129, Housing Board, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan
Phone Number: +91-9414080218 | Email Id: rajan_ch1@rediffmail.com | Website: http://www.srkps.org/
24 YP Foundation, New Delhi
Address: N 204, Greater Kailash, Part 1, New Delhi-110048
Phone Number: 011-46792241 | Email Id:  info@theypfoundation.org | Website: www.theypfoundation.org
25 Anubha Rastogi, Human Rights Lawyer
Address: 221, Old Bake House, Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce Lane,Kala Ghoda, Fort Mumbai- 400001
Phone : 022-22021004 | Email Id: anubha.rastogi@gmail.com
26 Dr Nozer Sheriar, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Former Secretary General, FOGSI
Address : 471, Chitrakar Dhurandhar Rd, Khar West, Mumbai, Maharashtra-400052
Phone number: +91-9821097536 | Email Id: nsheriar@gmail.com
27 Dr Atul Ganatra, Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Address : R. J. Ganatra Nursing Home, Opp. Railway Station, Mulund (West), Mumbai – 400080
Phone number: 022-25611326 | Email Id: ganatra.atul@gmail.com
28 Dr Ameet Patki, Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Address: Fertility Associates, 4th floor Gupte house, 81 s v road, Khar West Mumbai 400 052
Phone Number: 022-26044333 | Email Id: info@fertilityassociates.in
29 Dr Hema Divakar, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Former President of FOGSI (2013)
Address:Divakar’s Speciality Hospital, JP Nagar 2 Phase, Number 220, 9th Cross Road, Bengluru
Phone Number: +91-9900154448 | Email Id : drhemadivakar@gmail.com
30 Dr Jamuna Devi Gudidevuni, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Chairperson State Medicolegal Committee- Telangana, Former President of BGYN Society Hyderabad
Address: 1-2-216/B Street No.9,Gagan Mahal Road, Domalguda, Hyderabad – 500029
Email Id : jamunasuri@gmail.com
31 Dr Milind R. Shah, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, President of ISOPARB (2016-18), Former Vice President of FOGSI (2011)
Address: Naval Endoscopy & IVF Center, 201, Maryland Corner CHS, 2nd Floor, Sion (East), Mumbai – 400022
Phone Number: +91-9822096280 | Email Id : drmilindshah@gmail.com
32 Dr Ritu Joshi, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Former Vice Present and Chair, Family Welfare Committee, FOGSI
Address: A75, Bhabha Marg, Tilak Nagar, Jaipur- 302004
Phone Number: +91-9829062638
33 Dr Sadhana Desai, Emeritus Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Address: Bombay Hospital Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, 12 Spring Field, 19, Vachha Gandhi Road, Gamdevi, Mumbai-400007
Phone Number: +91-9820026087
34 Dr Sanjay Gupte, Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Address: Gupte Hospital, 904 Bhandarkar Road, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune
Phone Number: +91-9822030238
35 Dr Usha Krishna, Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Address: Clinic for Women, Ajit Villa, 19, Laburnum Road, Gamdevi, Mumbai. 400 007
Phone Number: +91-9820134278
36 Dr Abhijeet Pathak,Senior Technical Adviser Integrated Service Delivery, International Planned Parenthood Federation
Address: IPPF, South Asia Regional Office, New Delhi
Email:apathak@ippf.org,  info@ippf.org  | web http://www.ippf.org
37 Dr Ravi Verma, Social Researcher
Address: A 450 second Floor;  Defence colony, New Delhi
Email:ravi_k_verma@outlook.com
38 Dr Rajib Acharya, Social Researcher
Address: GH3008 SPS Residency, 18B Vaibhav Khand, Indirapuram, Ghaziabad– 20101
Phone: +91-9910449950
39 Dr Shireen J Jejeebhoy, Independent researcher- Social science and Reproductive health
Address: 16-A G Deshmukh Marg, Mumbai-400026
Email:sjejeebhoy@gmail.com
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