India: Abortion, Parents and the Indian Law

A recent court case has brought focus on the abortion laws in India. According to the current laws in India, abortions are not permitted after 20 weeks of pregnancy, unless the pregnancy is determined to be dangerous to the woman's health. In this particular case, a couple, whose foetus was diagnosed with a congenital heart block, missed the 20 week deadline, and appealed to a court in India to allow an abortion. The court however did not allow for the abortion procedure. The case has sparked a debate on abortion.

an orange cat questions the ethics behind the court's decision.

If abortion can be allowed upto 20 weeks, why not beyond it? …

Abortion beyond 20 weeks is allowed when the mother's life is in danger. But regardless of how seriously defective a foetus is, aborting it after 20 weeks is illegal. Is it really ethical to give birth to a baby, knowing that it will never have a normal life?Every parent wants his/her child to grow up healthy. Who would want to see their kid on pacemaker and life support from the moment of birth, dependant on them for everything?

At an MSN forum, the question of abortion as a parental choice provokes a lot of responses. One commenter compares abortion to murder and says

In this case it is mercy killing. Just a point think, would one approve abandoning a life if such a defect was known later after birth? If we can trust the medical report why can't we trust the medical science for the cure too?

Another commenter responds

Aborting a child is a painful decision for any woman (and her partner) to take. If the mother-to-be is not emotionally and financially able to handle the needs of her child-to-be, it would be better to abort than to bring forth an un-wanted child.

Sameer Agarwal asks what the consequences will be on the child who will later find out that he or she was not wanted in the first place. Maami's Weblog has a post that has a lot of commenters expressing sympathy for the parents, and for the child who might be born with a severe disability. Chennai Television explores the idea of science and religion playing a role in abortion laws.
The other aspect to this issue is that the couple did not opt for an illegal abortion, and instead sought permission from the courts. Mumbai Metblogs says

First it is not that we have hundreds of Nikita’s walking in every day asking for court’s help to abort a child. Secondly the one person who has faith in the laws and wanted to go about the right way has been bowled out. After this I don’t think that people will have any hopes of receiving the justice to any issue. The moral of the story is such incidents will make the people loose faith in law and justice.

The other issue that emerges is the potential misuse of a law that allows abortions beyond 20 weeks, which might increase the already existing problem of sex-selective abortions. However, the court does not seem prepared to make any exceptions to the law, which hasn't been changed in years.

As Dr. Datar later said, this legal battle shall help in increasing awareness about the lacunae that exist in the present laws and the need for making amendments to Section 5 of the MTP Act, 1971. The issue of the quality of life after birth, still rages on. The law needs amendment, and the legislators need to get their act together quickly.

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