NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court of India refused on Friday to allow an abortion for a 10-year-old girl who is at least 28 weeks pregnant. Indian law generally forbids abortions after the 20th week, though the courts may approve exceptions.
The girl, whose parents said she was raped by her uncle, underwent a medical examination on Wednesday. After reviewing the doctors’ findings, which were not made public, the court ruled that an abortion at this stage would not be in the girl’s interest, according to Alakh Alok Srivastava, the lawyer who petitioned the court to allow the procedure.
“Going by the advanced stage of pregnancy, the court has declined to allow the abortion,” Mr. Srivastava said.
The case, which many Indians have found shocking, was watched closely by activists working to overhaul India’s abortion law and relax the 20-week limit. They argue that abortion procedures are much safer today than when the law was enacted more than 40 years ago, eroding the rationale for the 20-week rule.
Some courts have granted petitions seeking exceptions in similar cases, including a decision in May to allow an abortion for another 10-year-old rape victim who was 21 weeks pregnant.
The latest case was first heard this month by a court in Chandigarh, which refused to allow an abortion, according to Mr. Srivastava’s petition to the Supreme Court. In the petition, he said the girl was about 26 weeks pregnant in mid-July; some local news reports on the hearing on Friday said she might be as far as 32 weeks along.
The police in Chandigarh have arrested the uncle on charges of rape, according to Deepak Yadav, the deputy superintendent of police. Mr. Yadav declined to give any other details about the case.
The examination of the girl on Wednesday was performed by doctors from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh. The head of the institute’s obstetrics department, Dr. Vanita Suri, also declined to discuss details of the case, except to say that the fetus was “beyond that age” where an abortion would be possible.
Dr. Suri also raised questions of medical ethics. “At some stage of pregnancy, baby has earned the right to live,” she said.
With an abortion ruled out, the remaining options for the girl include inducing labor prematurely or letting the fetus go to term and be delivered, said Dr. Rishma Dhillon Pai, the president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India, which has called for changes in the country’s abortion laws.
“It’s going to be a very, very difficult situation either way, to bring about labor now or later,” Dr. Pai said. “It is physically unsafe, because she’s just not developed at all physically — her pelvic bones, structure, her ability to carry a child to term.”
The girl’s family told The Indian Express newspaper that the girl had not been to school for several months. Her father is a watchman and her mother is a maid.
“What does she know — she is only 10 years old,” the girl’s mother told the newspaper. “She doesn’t understand all this, she has no idea about her pregnancy.”
The newspaper said the girl’s pregnancy had come to light this month when a neighbor noticed her swollen abdomen and urged her mother to have her examined by a doctor.