No protection for 17-week-old foetus

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A juvenile court judge has refused to honour a request by the Child Protection Council to place a 17-week-old foetus under supervision, Dutch daily AD reports. The council sought protection for an unwed pregnant 18-year-old from a potential honour killing by her family.

Only unborn children older than 24 weeks are granted legal rights like protection under Dutch law, the court ruled.

The mother’s identity has not been revealed. While she was still a minor, youth welfare services housed her at a secret location. On turning 18, however, she moved close to her parents, saying she had nothing to fear. The Child Protection Council insists she is at risk.

“The family will do anything to stop the pregnancy. If she refuses to abort the baby, the family will not shrink from kicking her in the belly, mistreating her or even stabbing her.”

The Child Protection Council has voiced disappointment with the ruling. If the judge had placed the foetus under supervision, the mother would have had to accept the council's help. She could have then been forced to return to a secret address.

The council will not appeal the ruling. Nor is it clear whether it will submit another request once the foetus is 24 weeks old. It says it will monitor the situation closely.

The council says it intervenes more and more often to offer protection to the unborn. Each year, it deals with dozens of cases, most of them involving the high-risk pregnancies of addicts or people with psychiatric problems.

(cl/imm/kh)

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