As Indians, we have traditionally been a nation that believes in the gift of children. So when a child comes to a family, it’s time to celebrate. Bring out your best clothes and your fanciest decorations. Grand celebrations and elaborate planning begins even before the birth. So requests for abortion are rarely taken nicely.
The law, in India, prohibits abortion in case the pregnancy has crosses 20 weeks, irrespective of risk to the life of the mother or to the foetus itself. In any such situation, special permission needs to be taken from the courts.
In a previous incident, the Supreme Court went beyond the rule and allowed abortion in case of a 24 week pregnant rape survivor when the foetus was suffering from a birth defect which would have resulted in the child growing without a portion of the skull and the brain.
In a judgment that came out a few days back, the Supreme Court took a stricter approach and denied a 26 week pregnant mother the permission to abort a foetus on the grounds that it was suffering from down syndrome.
The woman stated that continuing with the pregnancy would result in complications for the child, both mental and physical, and would also endanger her life.
The disorder was highly likely to result in retardation in the child, therefore making it difficult to lead a normal or even healthy life. The Court constituted a medical board for the purpose of examining the woman, which gave its report and in it said that there was no risk to the life of the mother. The doctors further said that the foetus, as claimed by the mother, was “likely to have mental and physical challenges”, but they did not advice termination.
While we understand the law is supreme, it also needs to be taken into account that a child with down syndrome brings additional responsibility to parents that one might not always be prepared for.
It is necessary for the judiciary to understand the concerns of the parents and to look at a situation from a compassionate perspective as well. Where exceptions can be made, they must be made, so as to facilitate the greater good for all parties involved and affected.