The plight of Niketa and Haresh Mehta, a young and educated couple from Mumbai has just begun. After the Bombay High Court dismissed their plea to permit an abortion of their 25-week-old fetus with a complete congenital heart blockage and malpositioned arteries, the couple feels dejected, let down and is questioning their quest to follow the right path.
They could have easily taken the easier way by aborting the fetus in any small clinic in lieu of money, however they chose to follow the law and do what was right, but unfortunately, their efforts were futile.
The disputed law that comes into the picture is the MTP Act of 1971, in which, section 3 is relevant to the case; it allows permission to abort the baby between 12-20 weeks if the baby’s health is at risk on the condition of good faith by the doctor. Section 5 allows abortion after 20 weeks if and only if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, but the Mehta’s wanted the clause to further include a provision to abort when the new-born may have a congenital severe mental or physical disability.
The Mehtas may have lost the court battle but their real battle is far from over. Every mother cherishes a healthy baby, that’s what Niketa wanted too, however God had some different plans for her.
Niketa knew that taking care of a disabled child required a lot of physical, mental, emotional and economical backing which the Mehta’s were definitely not prepared for. Unfortunately our society also shuns “different” or “disabled” human beings, and it would have been really difficult for a young working mother to cope up with so many responsibilities. Instead of having to repent later, the Mehta’s took a very bold and brave decision to abort their 25 week fetus the right way. It might not have been an easy decision especially for the mother to abort her baby but she did it only in the best interest of the child.
The above mentioned law is an archaic one which was in use in 1971, a period when medicine hadn’t reached the stage it is at today. With new technology in this field it becomes easier to detect any disability or abnormality in the fetus as it grows inside the womb. Hence it is only obvious to extend the period of abortion to at least 25-26 weeks as is the case in the West.
Many believe that such a law can be misused; however in the present scenario the chances are as high because the prevalent act allows abortion between 12-20 weeks.
The Court merely relied on the reports submitted by the doctors of J.J Hospital and followed the law turning a blind eye to the plight of the hapless woman – once again reinstating that in a courtroom, there’s no place for feelings.
Niketa has decided to keep the child with herself after giving birth, and turned away many NGO’s who came to rear the child if she wanted to give it away, only proving that her conscience was always intact.
Its only time that will tell what will happen to the unborn baby, but atleast the Mehta’s case has opened the door to discussion and has highlighted the shortcomings of the act and forced the lawmakers to bring in reforms which are urgently needed in this area.