Allow Survivors of Sexual Abuse to Terminate Pregnancy Without any Upper Gestational Limit

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15 year old Kavita (name changed), a mentally unsound girl lost her life. Her parents are daily wage labourers in a small village near Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.

Kavita was sexually abused by her 30 year old neighbour, but was unable to share her plight with her parents as she didn’t understand what had happened. When her parents came to know of her pregnancy (upon becoming visible), a case was registered at a nearby police station, and the accused was arrested. Medical examination revealed Kavita was 6 months (24 weeks) pregnant. Her distraught father appealed to the district administration to allow termination of the pregnancy. The permission was denied as doctors said the pregnancy was advanced and a police case was on. On 7th January, 2021, Kavita lost her life due to pregnancy related complications.

Was Kavita’s death preventable? Yes, had she been provided a safe abortion. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act doesn’t allow termination of an unwanted pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. Her family could have sought permission from courts, but this option was not offered to her. The doctors and law enforcement authorities were more concerned about the rape case, than about the life of a young girl.

While courts have been considerate in a few cases, often the survivors of sexual abuse get to know of their pregnancy late and take a much longer time to seek help, given the trauma and stigma, breaching the limits set by the MTP Act. This gets further exacerbated in the case of minors.

So that no other girl meets a similar fate like Kavita, we are asking for the MTP Act be amended to allow pregnancy resulting from sexual abuse to be terminated at any point during the pregnancy. Sign our petition!

The risk to mental and physical health of girls/women carrying such pregnancy to term is far greater than that of a safe abortion. Forcing survivors of sexual abuse to carry pregnancy term is also a violation of their right to life guaranteed under our Constitution.

The MTP Amendment Bill 2020 which has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is to be placed in the Rajya Sabha offers an opportunity to correct this wrong. The amendment increases the upper gestation limit to 24 weeks for certain categories of vulnerable women and there is no upper gestation limit in case of foetal abnormalities. We demand that upper gestation limit be removed for terminating a pregnancy arising out of sexual abuse. We owe it to Kavita to prevent such avoidable loss of life.

The increase in gestational limits from 20-24 weeks proposed by the MTP Amendment Bill 2020 for some categories of women may not help survivors of sexual abuse, since many women and girls may breach this limit by the time they seek help. It may also close doors for seeking judicial intervention when the gestation exceeds 24 weeks.

The rights and life of the survivors of sexual abuse needs to be prioritized. We therefore urge the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Minister of Women and Child Development, Government of India and the Honorable Members of the Rajya Sabha, where the MTP Amendment Bill 2020 is to be placed, to make the required change in the MTP Act to allow survivors of sexual abuse to terminate their pregnancy at any point in time without any upper gestational limit.