Women's health

Activists urge Centre to create guidelines for safe abortion for rape, sexual abuse survivors

On July 19, a Chandigarh court had refused to allow a 10-year-old rape survivor to abort her 26-week-old foetus.

A group of healthcare activists have urged the government to provide guidelines for safe and legal abortion to rape and sexual abuse survivors, especially children. This comes after a Chandigarh district court had refused to allow a 10-year-old girl to abort her 26-week-old foetus. She got pregnant after her uncle allegedly raped her multiple times over seven months.

“Pregnancy constitutes a serious risk to the life, health and mental health of the child and adolescent [as well as the woman],” a statement from CommonHealth (The Coalition for Maternal-Neonatal Health and Safe Abortion) said.

Currently, the Indian law allows abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The activists added that there should be no legal upper time limit on abortion since such cases are usually reported in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. “This is in keeping with provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, which provide for right to treatment for sexual abuse survivors,” the statement read, adding that abortion is an essential component of such treatment.

They also said that courts should not be involved in deciding if a girl or a woman has the legal right to abort in cases of rape and sexual abuse. “This understanding of the law should be taught in medical education, understood and duly implemented by members of the medical profession responsible for abortion services when such an emergency arises, without delay or debate,” read the statement.

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