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When Law Needs To Take A Walk: Medical Termination Of Pregnancy After 20 Weeks

March 2, 2017


This illogical legal standing is the reason we have a baby born in our (extended) family that is mentally and physically retarded (no way I shall use the word ‘challenged’ ; is this really a challenge? what kind of challenge is this?)and immobile in bed for last 3 years. Not in playschool with other kids, not running about and playing pranks. Just in his same baby cot, same room, same home, same town. The baby is the reason for marital frictions between his parents, is the cause of terrible grief for his entire family. Add to it a huge medical bill every month plus physiotherapy charges and frequent hospitalization expenses (for respiratory problems). The medical cover hardly proves sufficient.

The little one’s mother is suspected to have caught a viral throat infection in her pregnancy (which she cannot recall – CMV virus) By her 6th month in second term, it was established via routine ultrasound scan that the baby’s brain as well as physical growth had stopped forthwith.That is valid ground for medical termination of pregnancy but it was past 20 weeks under Indian statute. The parents wanted to go for abortion. Since law was against it, hospitals refused. The girl in her twenties was forced to continue with her pregnancy against her will without an ounce of happiness. The family waited in desperation for the birth of their first child in family after nearly 30 years – in the third generation – knowing what was to come. So sad…

Now hopefully Government of India, the Supreme court everyone one is ought to be happy. Yes, in larger interests of the nation, the girl went on with her pregnancy, delivered an unhealthy boy, and is now trapped in a tragic situation, caring for her little son for over 3 years. So what, justice is served after all. Law was adhered to, to the last letter. The baby is fed (only soya milk nothing else) through a tube that is inserted into his nostril sometimes and if he is worse, through a tube inserted directed into his stomach. How nightmarish life is for the little life since day 1! Can’t be more painful and torturous. How long will he live is a question mark. Can you imagine situation like this: where from parents to grandparents everyone is praying and waiting for the baby to die?

The emotional and physical toll the sick baby is taking on his father and mother as well as on others is enormous. Life turned upside down for them. My heart goes out to the innocent little bundle of profound sadness – who needn’t have to be, but for some obstinate laws we have here in India that do more harm than good. The disillusioned young parents have totally lost interest in life. Both are successful IT professionals. But after the boy’s birth, the mother had to give up her job. After what happened with the first born, the young couple do not even want to try for a second baby.

Are you happy India? Are you happy Judges that justice is served? That Law is upheld? You killed no son of India. You saved his life. For what purpose? To our government and perhaps the justice system, this is a mere collateral damage to pay when it comes to upholding law, from preventing misuse of the statute. But what medical expertise do our legal experts boast of, to rule on exigency cases like these?

Why cannot there be case to case exceptions where a judge can decide suo motto on the issue in medical situations like this one. These are special cases that need to take into account expert opinion and have to be judged on humanitarian ground. When we have family courts for divorces in India, why cannot we have a similar system for civil medical suits?

Someone directly affected by the 20-week Abortion (Limit) Law in India posted this in Facebook 2 years back. Lives wrecked, families devastated,… so whatever happened to the amendment?

India’s Supreme court has NO time to hear sensitive, critical issues like these that may mean life and death to citizens.: our judges will decide on fellow Indians’ precious lives at their leisure. Whether it is about medical termination of foetus after 20 weeks or Jallikattu matter pending for years before Supreme court, you will have to wait. How can one ever repose faith in an institution where the welfare of citizens seems to be of least consequence. Vacate the vacation, if you have to. Timing is precious and sacrosanct in these cases. The purpose of Law and Judiciary is to serve citizens JUSTICE. Not to deny or delay justice to the needy and desperate. Justice delayed is justice denied. Unilateral ruling without taking into consideration case specifics will serve no purpose. It is time, our stone age statutes are revisited and Draconian ones like the abortion laws are repealed and/or amended/revised/restructured on expert opinion.

Rise in birthrate of abnormal children with birth defects (congenital or otherwise) is a big loss to not only the concerned parents/family but also to Indian nation. A healthy population means a healthy nation.

Finally, what is the purpose of ultrasound scans or other advanced tests carried out with amniotic fluid? It is to rule out anomalies in the foetuses, these tests are recommended right upto the trimester term, why even 24 hours before delivery, these days.  If you cannot amend the law, why go for them? Not to mention they are expensive.



Where poverty is a blessing: The young mother of the CMV baby was telling me about a very poor family whose infant daughter was also a premature baby with retarded growth. Unlike my relative, the impoverished parents of the little girl refused to foot medical bills which they couldn’t afford. ‘We would let our baby die and by next year we will go for another baby’ said the helpless mother I believe as they withdrew treatment to their infant and took her home. No, the girl could not have survived over a few days.

There is this woman who is 40 now, a Down’s syndrome case. How her parents and family are suffering along with her all these years is something we are all watching helplessly. How the mother struggled to teach the girl hygiene especially during her period times…. and take care of herself … was heartbreaking… Now the mother asks, ‘what and who after me, for her?’ a question to which none of us has answer. When the girl was born in 1970s, there was no ultrasound scan facility. Now we have the apparatus to prevent these unwanted abnormal births. The supreme court has just condemned one more life to eternal misery, has just wrecked one more family in my opinion.

What is wrong with my nation?


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