Supreme Court Upholds Rape Survivor’s Plea for Abortion, Citing Constitutional Philosophy

Aug22,2023 #Abortion #Rape #SUPREME COURT

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Published on: 22 August 2023 at 11:55 IST

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of India has underscored the violation of constitutional principles in compelling a rape survivor to carry a child conceived through rape.

The Court granted permission for the termination of pregnancy sought by a 25-year-old rape survivor.

The verdict was accompanied by an observation that forcing a woman to bear a child stemming from rape contradicts the foundational tenets of the constitution.

The case unfolded after the survivor’s plea for medical termination of pregnancy was denied by the Gujarat High Court.

A bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan was convened to address the urgent plea filed by the survivor. She resorted to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction after being denied relief by the Gujarat High Court.

The survivor, an Adivasi woman from a remote village in Gujarat, fell victim to rape under the guise of a false marriage promise. Having reached 26 weeks of pregnancy, she approached the high court seeking permission for pregnancy termination.

Despite the endorsement of a medical board’s favorable opinion, her plea was dismissed by the Gujarat High Court. She is currently in her third trimester, having carried the fetus for 27 weeks and three days.

Justice Bhuyan of the Supreme Court criticized the high court’s decision, highlighting that it contradicts the constitutional philosophy.

The bench questioned the ethics of perpetuating unjust circumstances by compelling a rape survivor to endure pregnancy, which intensifies the trauma she has endured.

During the hearing, the Solicitor-General of India, Tushar Mehta, recounted a separate instance where a woman who initially intended to terminate her pregnancy was persuaded to give birth, followed by the adoption of the child.

The Solicitor-General drew attention to the differences in the situations, underlining the seriousness of forced pregnancies resulting from rape.

Justice Nagarathna asserted the fetus’s right to life as per Article 21 of the Constitution, suggesting that if the fetus survives, the State must provide necessary medical facilities for its well-being.

The court appreciated the government’s assurance to provide medical facilities, emphasizing that the fetus’s well-being should be the focus.

In addition to permitting the pregnancy termination, the court’s order touched on the stress and trauma experienced by women in pregnancies outside of marriage, especially in cases resulting from rape.

The court recognized the detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of pregnant women in such scenarios.

The Supreme Court’s intervention aligns with the constitutional principles of justice, human rights, and empathy, ensuring that the survivor’s rights and well-being are upheld.

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