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Bombay HC denies abortion plea of Niketa Mehta

Mumbai, Mon, 04 Aug 2008 NI Wire

Acting on the advice of a panel of doctors, the Bombay High Court on Monday denied an abortion plea by Niketa and Harsh Mehta saying there was no surety of abnormalities with the 24-week-old foetus.

A Division Bench of Justices RMS Khandeparkar and Amjad Sayed hearing the plea said that in this particular case no permission can be guaranteed to the petitioner woman having 24-week-old foetus to go for abortion as per an expert panel of doctors’ advice denying the maximum probability of child to be born with a handicap or incapacitated.

However, about the abortion law in a broader context, the bench said that they could not alter the provision of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. “It is the job of the legislature to help you alter the provision. We can not legislate the provision.”

A panel of doctors headed by the Dean of JJ Hospital submitted a report in the matter to the court noting “there are least chances of the child will be born with a congenital handicap at birth.”

“There is no medical evidence on record to say that he will be handicapped after birth,” said the court after reading the report prepared by the doctors of J J Hospital.

“The petitioners have not made out that this lady's case is exceptional for us to use discretionary powers,” said the court.

The court also said that in this particular case even if the couple had approached prior to 20 weeks, the court would not have allowed her to abort, as the medical opinion was contrary.

Earlier, a committee of doctors appointed by the same hospital stated that there was fair chance of the child being born with a congenital handicap.

Last week, the petitioner couple Niketa and Harsh Mehta along with their gynaecologist Nikhil Datar had moved the Bombay High Court seeking abortion and alteration in MTP after she found during routine diagnosis in her 24th week that her unborn child was suffering from a congenital heart block.

In their petition, the couple had sought to abort the child since it would need a pacemaker right from the time of birth and the quality of its life would be poor. Besides for a family like her who hails from a middle-class it would not be possible to spend Rs one lakh on a peacemaker which has a lifespan of about five years. Changing the pacemaker in every five years is not economically viable for them.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act-applicable to whole of India except to the Jammu and Kashmir- was enacted in 1971 to prevent female foeticide. The Act prohibits abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a fatal risk to the mother. Any couple found guilty of practising illegal abortions could be sent to jail for a period of two to seven years.

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August 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Did not know about such an act of 1971. If you fin that a child is to born with health problems and the doctors certify that, do you need to make a plea in the court to abort it? Why wouldn't the doctors do it without making this a public issue? Just imagine the trauma of the would-be parents!



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