Will the State take any responsibility if the child suffers? | india | Hindustan Times
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Will the State take any responsibility if the child suffers?

For all the clamour that was being made against the traumatised couple, none seemed to consider the fact that Niketa Mehta and her husband were the unhappiest to learn about the congenital illness affecting their child, writes Jayshree Wadhwa.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2008 20:09 IST

It’s been rather astounding to find a nation debating vociferously — as if it were national policy — about something that is an intensely personal issue. Coming as it does after the Bombay High Court has decided to not allow a couple to abort a 25-week foetus with a serious heart defect, one seriously wonders how the law can be so impervious to basic individual rights.

For all the clamour that was being made against the traumatised couple, none seemed to consider the fact that Niketa Mehta and her husband were the unhappiest to learn about the congenital illness affecting their child. Instead of understanding this vital tragedy, self-righteousness took over.

Is it such an evil thing to not want to bring a child into this world that has a seriously high chance of suffering and then dying a pointless death? How much kinder and more pragmatic is it for the Mehtas to have a suffering child and then, for the sake of the law, see it die?

Which parent does not want a healthy child? At the same time, a vast majority of mothers who deliver a ‘less- than-perfect’ child do love their offspring and tend to it as best as humanly possible. Conflating the wish to not deliver a ‘high-risk baby’ and rejecting a ‘less than perfect’ child after its born is downright noxious.

As a mother of a special child, it was my husband’s and my decision to go through with having a baby and then giving him all the love that parents can give. That was a decision we had taken. But if the Mehtas decided that, for whatever reason, they were not prepared to have a child with a serious heart ailment, it is as much their decision as it was ours.

And when does one consider that it’s wrong to have a baby? If the baby has a 80 per cent chance of suffering? Ninety per cent? Ninety-eight per cent?

The fact that the congenital disorder in the baby was found only at this ‘late’ stage — in the 24th week of Niketa’s pregnancy — is not good enough for the law to exempt the Mehtas from the Medical Termination of Pregnancies Act, 1971. In our country with its menace of female foeticide, this law is necessary. But the Mehtas’ case is a resounding exception.

And my question to the wise men in the court: Will the State take any shred of responsibility if the child that Niketa Mehta has been told she must deliver suffers and dies? Why do I have the feeling that the answer to that is a resounding no.