'Girls Used To Give Birth Before 17': Why Is Gujarat HC Statement On Minor Abortion Problematic

The Gujarat HC, while hearing a plea filed by a minor’s father seeking abortion of her 7-month pregnancy, stated that during ancient times, girls used to get married and become mothers at the age of 17. The minor girl is a 16 year old rape survivor.

Kalyani Ganesan
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The Gujarat High Court, while hearing a plea filed by a minor’s father seeking the medical termination of her 7-month pregnancy, stated that during ancient times, girls used to get married and become mothers at the age of 17. The minor girl is a rape survivor, aged 16 years and 11 months.

It was shocking to hear the High Court observe that it was normal in the past for girls ages 14–15 to get married and become mothers before the age of 17.

Gujarat HC On Minor Abortion Plea

The counsel of the petitioner urged that the court grant their plea to medically terminate the minor girl’s pregnancy, considering the girl's tender age. However, Justice Samir J. Dave remarked that this was only an issue because we are living in the 21st century. He mentioned that our great-grandmothers were married off at 14–15 years of age and became mothers before 17 years of age. He noted that girls mature faster than boys, and 4-5 months didn’t make a difference. He highlighted that people should read Manusmriti once to know this.

The judge added that he had further consulted the doctors in his chambers and discussed whether the pregnancy could be terminated in this case as the minor girl is over 7 months pregnant. Taking into consideration the facts of the case, the judge directed the medical superintendent of Civil Hospital Rajkot to perform a medical examination of the minor girl with the panel of doctors of the civil hospital on an immediate basis. The doctors were also instructed to conduct the ossification test on the minor girl and get her examined by a psychiatrist to evaluate her mental condition.

The court ordered the next hearing to be held on August 16 and made it clear that it would not permit the medical termination of the foetus if the minor girl and the foetus were found to be in healthy condition. The court also expressed concern about the possibility of the foetus being born alive during the termination because of its gestational age. The court concluded by directing the petitioner’s lawyer to start looking for adoption options.

Why Gujarat HC's Statement Is Problematic


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), adolescent mothers face higher risks of life-threatening health issues such as eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infection compared to mothers above the age of 20 years. While child marriage, child pregnancy, and the like were social norms back in the day, those practices have been abolished not just because they were social evils but also because they were detrimental to the health and lives of women.

With that being the case, how can it be normalised yet again? The most problematic statement of all was the reference to Manusmriti! Now, my intention isn’t to be disrespectful towards any cultural or sacred texts, but isn't it problematic if it gets in the way of women's well-being? Regardless of what Manusmriti or whatever ancient scriptures say, do we want to risk the physical and mental health of women despite knowing the complications are at bay?

The maternal mortality rate (MMR) in India was exceptionally high in 1990, with 556 women dying during childbirth for every hundred thousand live births, and that’s undeniably a significant number. With the government’s National Health Policy’s initiatives, India has successfully reduced the MMR to 97 per lakh live births in 2018–20. At a time when we are witnessing steady and gradual progress, this statement from the Gujar High Court is extremely regressive!

In April 2023, teen pregnancy was discovered to be the reason behind 6,000 child deaths in one year in Assam. The findings of the Assam National Health Mission stated that over 6,000 children of adolescent mothers passed away due to malnutrition and anaemia, which were the major causes behind the demise of children below the age of five. Isn’t this recent finding enough proof to establish that teen pregnancy is bad for both the mother and the child?

While the gestational age of the foetus is high and the pregnancy has gone too far, what will happen to the minor girl’s well-being if she is forced to give birth at such a tender age? Won’t it leave a life-long scar on her? What if the foetus is born with undetectable issues? How is it fair for the child? While the child might be entrusted to an adoption centre, healthy or not, that child is going to grow up without a family. Should the unborn baby and the minor rape survivor face the brunt of a rapist’s misdeeds?


Suggested Reading: Kerala HC Allows Teen Who Was Impregnated By Brother To Abort Pregnancy At 7 Months

Views expressed by the author are their own

teen pregnancy Gujarat HC On Minor Abortion Plea