07/16/2022, 17.12
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Delhi High Court rejects abortion at 23 weeks

by Nirmala Carvalho

In response to a petition by an unmarried woman, the court noted that allowing an abortion "would be equivalent to killing the fetus”. As an alternative, it said the woman should be allowed to give birth anonymously and give the child up for adoption. Meanwhile, the first National March for Life planned for New Delhi on 10 August will mark the anniversary of the law legalising abortion in 1971.


Delhi (AsiaNews) – On Friday, the Delhi High Court decided against the petition by an unmarried woman to have an abortion 23 weeks into her pregnancy, noting that “it would be equivalent to killing the fetus”.

The woman's lawyer argued that she is in severe psychological distress because, as an unmarried woman ditched by her partner, she will not be able to properly raise the child.

What is more, in his view, India's abortion law is discriminatory since it allows other women, most notably divorcees, to terminate their pregnancies until the 24th week.

In its motivation, the High Court said that the law gives unmarried women the time they need to undergo abortion and that lawmakers deliberately excluded consensual relationships from the category of cases where abortion is allowed between 20 and 24 weeks.

As an alternative, the court suggested keeping the woman in a safe place until the baby is born, and then putting the child up for adoption.

For Dr Pascoal Carvalho, An Indian member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, “What is also most encouraging is the empathy shown by the court”.

Reassured by the ruling, he told AsiaNews that it provides “the mother with all the help” she needs, while “shielding her from public scrutiny” at “a safe and comfortable place to stay until the birth of the child, with everything being looked after by the government.”

“In my opinion, there can be no more humane verdict than this,” he noted. The decision “shows a very positive shift in the way we address unwanted pregnancies. We have finally begun to see the foetus as a person and abortion as murder.”

Indeed, “We have also realised that the mother will need help up to delivery and then the child can be put up for adoption, all this [. . .] whilst preserving the dignity of the mother and shielding her from any scandal.”

According to a study published by The Lancet Global Health journal, the number of abortions in India is at least 21 times higher than officially reported: 700,000.

The latter figure does not take into account private abortion clinics or self-administered ‘at home’ chemical abortions.

The study emphasised that 81 per cent of abortion seekers take life-threatening drugs, killing their babies at home, without a doctor’s supervision nor counselling.

Abortion was legalised in India on 10 August 1971. Fifty years later, Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), called on the Church in India to hold a day of mourning on 10 August.

To this end, CHARIS India is holding the first National March for Life in Delhi on 10 August, which will take participants from the Jantar Mantar site to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

This initiative – which is meant to focus again attention on the abortion issue, which was reignited by the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court – will see the participation of pro-life groups, representatives of the Diocesan Commission for Life, bishops, priests, religious, seminarians, as well as lay people.

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