Rape victims needn’t approach medical board to terminate pregnancy, says Madras High Court

The Madras High Court on Friday said a rape victim need not approach a medical board or the judiciary to terminate a pregnancy less than 20 weeks long, PTI reported.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh said that Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, said pregnancies that were less than 12 weeks could be terminated on the opinion of a single doctor and those between 12 and 20 weeks could be terminated based on the opinion of two doctors, The Hindu reported.

The judge said even in cases where the length of pregnancy exceeded 20 weeks, it can be terminated in accordance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act if the life of a woman was under threat.

“The victim girl should not be unnecessarily made to knock the doors of this court,” the judge said in his order.

The judge was hearing the petition of a woman who had claimed that she became pregnant after she was raped. She alleged that the assailant had recorded videos of her and used them to intimidate her. The petitioner said she filed a police complaint and asked the police to arrange for the termination of her pregnancy.

As the police did not take any steps, the petitioner got herself admitted to the state-run Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The doctors initially agreed to terminate her pregnancy, but later discharged her in view of the police complaint and the need for a forensic examination.

The petitioner then moved the Madras High Court, which directed her to the government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children, where it was found that she was eight to 10 weeks pregnant.

The government hospital and the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology wrote to the dean of Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, saying that only the medical board there could terminate the pregnancy.

A medical board then evaluated the petitioner and her pregnancy was terminated. It was reported to the court on June 18. The petitioner’s counsel, Sudha Ramalingam, said that in cases involving medical termination of pregnancy, the woman should not be made to approach the court when the pregnancy is below 20 weeks.

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