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13 year old rape victim's baby dies after court ordered "termination"

12 September 2017

The baby was delivered prematurely at 32 weeks. Image: istock

The baby of a 13 year old rape victim in India has died two days after being born prematurely by cesarean section.

The girl, who is said to have been raped by a business associate of her father, was granted permission by the Supreme Court to terminate the 32 week pregnancy for medical reasons.

Blog: Don't use rape victims to try to justify abortion

Abortion or not?

It seems that doctors interpreted the court order that the girl be allowed to terminate her pregnancy in view of "the trauma she had suffered" as not actually requiring them to perform a late term abortion. According to the Mail Online, Nikhil Datar, a Mumbai-based doctor who had examined the girl earlier, said doctors took a call to save the baby by performing a caesarean section on Friday. 

"Terminating pregnancy as sought by the Supreme Court means discontinuing the pregnancy and not killing the foetus," Dr Datar said. "The Court focused on mother's health as she is a minor and after the termination we have to accept the consequences as they come."

To no avail

According to the Indian Express, Dr Dr Ashok Anand, the head of the gynaecology department at the hospital, said the baby was delivered weighing 1.8kg. "We expected the baby to survive. There have been deliveries with much lower birth weight," he said.

However, the baby died due to prematurity and underdeveloped lungs on Sunday. 

It appears that the girl's family, who had initially petitioned the Supreme Court to allow an abortion when the pregnancy was discovered at 27 weeks (past India's usual 20 week cut-off), later changed their minds and were considering keeping the baby.

Tragic case

Dr Ashok said that the girl was now being referred for psychiatric counselling. "It is very difficult for her to cope with all this. First, she got the news of pregnancy, then she had to deliver the child. And now, when the family wanted to keep the baby, they lost him," he said. 

In recent months courts have received a number of petitions from women seeking abortions where pregnancies had gone beyond 20 weeks.

Commenting on the story, SPUC's Dr Anthony McCarthy said: "It is very sad that the baby has died apparently due to prematurity, despite the family's willingness to take him home, expressed when he went into intensive care. It is not clear there was any medical need to deliver the baby: this appears to be a needless death of a child who should have been left alone until he was closer to term. The family and the girl herself were already apparently thinking of keeping the child, but seemingly confused by the Supreme Court ruling. No-one should underestimate the trauma to this young girl, or think that abortion or even medically needless premature delivery was the answer here."

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