Wednesday, August 06, 2008


in its true form necessarily excludes the notion of 'right' and 'wrong'.

the mehtas wanted to exercise their choice. they asked the courts to allow them to abort their baby at 26 weeks. the law allows parents to opt for abortion until 20 weeks.

the courts declared that they can not allow abortion in this case.

underlying their judgement is the assumption that it is wrong to terminate the life of this child. it is wrong for the parents to want to do so. let god and nature decide what chances the child has at survival, after birth.

in an age where we increasingly rely on medical science and technology to help us survive, the courts feel that god and nature should decide, with the help of a pacemaker.not the parents and the doctors advising them.

after discussing the reports with many doctors the parents feel that their child has a fragile chance of leading a normal life. we are not talking about a handicapped existence, a life without vision, or hearing or speech. nor are we discussing a life without full mental capabilities. we are talking about a heart that is probably going to be unable to function normally on its own.

i do not think that this is a debate on parents who want a perfect child, one without any disabilities. it is about the quality of life of a child whose heart can not function on its own.

yes, the technology exists to help the child survive.

but the parents have taken a position regarding that kind of a life for their child.

a law that truly believes it is pro-choice needs to validate that position that the parents have taken.

i did all the tests recommended by the doctor when i was pregnant. we discussed what we would do faced with a test result that indicated a problem. i was not as brave as a pal who refused to do any test, no test result is going to influence my decision to give birth to this child, she said.i wanted to do the tests, to know, to prepare.

i have always been pro-choice. and when i was pegnant, i think i knew that i would choose to give birth to my child unless.....and i did not know at what point unless would be defined.we were lucky that we did not need to define that point.

these parents have had to concretise that point...unless... their child can have a heart that can beat by itself.

we are not talking about corrective surgery here. when i entered the ICU to visit my mother after her by-pass operation i saw a row of babies, under one year. all of them had gone through heart surgeries that gave them a better chance to survive.

from what i have understood from the reports, a corrective surgery will not help. a device that will make the heart beat is what will help.

the reports do not talk about what the chances are of a new born baby's body accepting or rejecting a foreign body like a pacemaker.

many will argue, take the chance. how can you not want to take the chance?

and what if the condition is not as severe as it appears. these tests are not conclusive. so many what ifs....

the mehtas made their choice public on the basis of the slew of 'what ifs' in front of them. as a society we did not give them the right to act on their choice.

and as a society we will probably do nothing to support this child, or others like her/him.

and we will not even see what violence that lack of choice can mean for some.especially women. a friend doing research on health and the urban poor tells me that women routinely ingest ten to fifteen crocins in one go, to abort. with healthcare becoming increasingly privatised and expensive, this remains the cheapest, and quietest option available to women. the impact on their bodies is hardly a consideration when they pop those pills. women in rural areas, again with no access to basic health care insert herbs in their uterus to abort, often resulting in severe infections, hemorrhaging.

and lets not dismiss this issue as one related to poverty, that those who are poor or can not afford to bring up their children should be allowed to abort.

what is related to poverty is access to medical care. what is universal, across class, is agency, and that is lacking.

women are denied agency to make their choices. by law, by society, by morality!


Avanti Sané said...

I too have been following this issue and agree that it should be pro-choice. Being a parent now, I realize how difficult it is to see your child in pain(and we are just talking immunization injections here)..can you imagine the trauma they will undergo while dealing with a baby with a defect like that..I shudder just thinking about it..

dipali said...

The whole scenario is so unnerving.
Lives change irrevocably, in a split second. The parents are the only ones who know their own, entire situation.
I've seen the arrival of a handicapped child signal the end of the parents marriage, and other situations where the parents are totally united in caring for their disabled child. I just hope the Mehta baby is in better shape than predicted. Poor parents, terrible to be in such a situation.

meenav said...

first time to r blog...funny I posted on pro-choice and ant-abortion myself on

I am all for pro-choice.

Mira's mom said...

Completely agree with you Sur! Now that the ruling has been made, just hoping that the Mehta baby turns out to be much better than expected.

Mala said...

Hey Sur - this is a great post. Take a look at this article:

Mala (long-time lurker)

Banno said...

It's not a question of rich, poor, sickness, health. A woman should be allowed to make the decision to have a child or not, for whatever reasons she deems fit. Unfortunately, the law does not often translate to workability. And everyone else but the woman dictates terms for her.

SUR NOTES said...

avanti sane': gosh i agree with you. earlier my pro-choice position was in abstraction, an intellectual decision. after caring for a child, its a deeply emotional position. i find it impossible to judge another parent for the choices they make.

dipali: yes, it must be devastating for the parents.

meenav: thanks for the link

mira's mom: i hope so too.

mala: thanks for the link.

banno: i must come across and tell you about the small film i made on pregnancy and health care. the lack of choice/decision making powers is horrifyingly stark.

atthecruxofit said...

another concern to me now is the fact that how are we expecting the child to deal with the fact that its parents fought a legal battle to terminate its life.