Abortion laws, SC please be liberal

The Supreme Court’s rejection of the request of a woman to abort her 26-week-old unborn baby with Down Syndrome is not in line with some of its recent liberal rulings on abortion. The law allows abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy if there is a danger to the mother’s life or health or if the unborn baby has abnormalities. But the court had allowed a woman in February to terminate her pregnancy in the 24th week as there was a threat to her life.

In January, another woman had been allowed to abort her 24-week baby which was found to have a life-threatening defect. The court accepted, in the latest case, that the child may have physical and mental challenges and ‘it is unfortunate for the mother’, but said ‘we have a life in our hands’. The sanctity of life cannot be disputed, but the court took a moral and strictly legal position in the case and ignored the woman’s situation. Down Syndrome is not life-threatening but is a handicap which makes an individual dependent on others for life. Supporting a child with the debility is emotionally and financially draining for the parents. It puts mothers especially, in a very difficult situation.

The question who will support the children after the parents’ death is also relevant. There is no social support system in the country to look after special individuals. It is wrong and unfair to force a mother to take care of a child she does not want. It should be left to her choice, especially when the child is not normal. It is an issue of women’s rights too. They should have control over the decisions concerning their body. Even accepting that freedom of choice should not be absolute and unrestricted as it may be misused, there is a case for individual scrutiny of such cases, not just from medical and legal angles but also from human and social points of view. Children with disabilities also have the right to life. But these two rights have to be weighed against each other in every situation where a difficult decision is involved. The woman’s case should not have been ignored and rejected by the court.

When abortions cannot be done because of the stringency of laws and the limitations they impose, they are illegally done, resulting in death or damage to health. Every year, 6.8 million unsafe abortions take place in the country, killing 10 women every day. The government has proposed liberalisation of the law, and it should be done without delay.  

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