That is the question which a would-be-parent would never want to be confronted with. But Haresh and Niketa Mehta wanted an abortion of their 25-week-old foetus that doctors have prenatally diagnosed as having serious heart problem. But the Mumbai High court disallowed them from preventing the birth of their unborn foetus. In India, the abortion law allows the termination of pregnancy if there is a threat to the mother’s life. But if the child’s health after birth runs adverse risk, the law does not allow abortion.
This has brought into focus the complex religious, ethical and legal issues surrounding abortions and has triggered a pro-life verses pro-choice debate.
Those who agree with the court verdict believe that once there is life, even if it is still in the womb of the mother, no one has the right to ask for it to be killed, not even the parents. The unborn baby has every right to see this world. Who are we to decide what is good or bad? The Almighty decides the fate of the human beings. Let’s not try and play God. Would they have killed the child if this problem occurred after its birth? Another concern is that when female foeticide is so rampant in India, any relaxation in abortion law could be misused. If this was allowed, it could be used as a pretext for terminating perfectly healthy children.
This has triggered a question. As a society, have we become so success oriented that we are terrified of disability? Can we give the ultimate choice to the parents to go ahead with abortion if they do not want to give birth to a child who is less than normal?
In the opinion of the rationalists, the parents should have the choice whether or not to continue with a pregnancy. Let their own conscience help them decide. There is immense emotional trauma attached with raising a child with congenital disorder. A baby with malfunctioning organs can cause immense tribulation. For such cases, ’mercy abortions’ must be allowed. The child’s life will be hell. Parents will have no choice but to watch the child’s agony helplessly. Besides, there are financial constraints as well. Who will take care of the expenses that the couple may have to go through. The parents may not be able to afford to give the child the latest treatment. Health is wealth. But ill-health is a drain on ones wealth!!! Not everyone can afford expensive medical procedures.
For the Mehtas, this is a very difficult time. All our sympathies are with them. We pray to God that their child is born without any serious complications and grows up healthy.
But the legal battle, covered extensively by the print media as well as the TV news channels, has brought this couple in the centre of the media glare. There is speculation that the Mehta’s would be remembered as the couple who caused the law on abortion rights to be rewritten. The government may take cognisance of this case and amend the law so that other couples, like the Mehtas, do not have to undergo the trauma of bringing up an unhealthy child. How and when this will happen remains to be seen.
But one thing is for sure. The child who is about to be born is going to suffer a lot of psychological trauma. My heart goes out for that unborn child who will have to live with this knowledge that s/he is a cause of a lot of mental and financial agony to the parents I don’t think that s/he will have pleasant feelings When s/he will realise the fact that s/he is the unwanted child of his parents. They went to great lengths to have him/her aborted.
I don’t think that this knowledge will be very easy to live with.