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Aug 05, 2008 at 04:09pm IST

Abortion verdict heats up ethics debate

New Delhi The Bombay High Court on Monday rejected the plea of a couple who wanted to abort their 24-week foetus because of a congenital heart defect.

The court’s verdict on the issue has gripped the country and divided the opinions of the common man right down the middle.

The court gave the verdict after a panel of doctors told that there is little chance that the child will be born handicapped because of the heart defect. Niketa Mehta and her husband Haresh wanted a 37-year-old law, which forbids abortion after a foetus is 20 weeks old, to be relaxed in their favour.

The court’s verdict has raised a debate among the doctors and many parents and doctors have reacted to it.

Dr. one in ten children have congenital birth defects, should all of them be killed?

Anita Kaul Head Foetal Medicine Apollo Delhi: It is ridiculous that we're in a situation where an anomaly scan is done at 19 weeks and they hold a shotgun to the parents, asking them to choose.

Prithviraj: You can’t mess with nature. What if the child comes out right? Miracles do happen.

Bina: You fall in love with it, and it gets too painful. The parents have every right to decide not to want the child.

Nikita Mehta had filed a petition seeking permission to abort her unborn baby after doctors said that the foetus has a heart block but the court went by the existing Abortion Law, the medical termination of pregnancy act, which disallows abortion after twenty weeks.

For the Mehtas, the abortion road ends here, unless they move to the higher court.

While many say that the judgment was correct there are some medical experts who believe that the law should be amended.

Anita Kaul Apollo Delhi - There is no risk to the mother from 20 to 24 weeks. The law dates back to 1973, when technology was not developed and abortion wasn't safe.

Some believe that even a small leeway would lead to flood.

Dr Mahendra Patel - We live by the law of the land. If this is allowed, there won’t be any end to it. People will want abortions for flimsy reasons.

But for many of the mothers, Niketa's pain, and her plea made sense.

Anjita - Abortion should be allowed. What if the parents die? Who will take care of the child?

Mansi - To give birth, knowing that the child is not healthy would be a crime to my kid.

But the ibnlive.com poll on the issue gave a clear verdict. Seventy-seven per cent of the respondents believe that the parents should have a choice, while 23 per cent feel otherwise.