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Who Should Decide on Abortion?
By John B Monteiro

November 28, 2012


 
The babe is at peace in the womb,
The corpse is at rest within the tomb.

- Percy Shelley, English poet (1792-1822).


The propositions implied in the above lines regarding womb and tomb no longer hold good in the face of advances in technology and medical science. The foetus is no longer allowed to rest in peace in the womb, with ultrasound probes monitoring their progress, and having a peep into their sex. Tombs are raided for the skeletons and for DNA tests, the latest instance being the exhuming, on November 27, 2012, the body of the iconic Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, by French scientists to determine if he was poisoned to death. On the other hand, mother’s love, as Rudyard Kipling noted in poetry, no longer will ensure her presence even if the child were to be hanged on the highest hill. It is a far cry from the idea of mother in the following line of William Makepeace Thackeray, English novelist (1811-1863): “Mother is the name of God in the lips of children”.

The death of Savitha Halappanavar in Ireland on October 28, 2012 has made worldwide media headlines and now the report on the probe into her death, expected to be out pre-Christmas, is awaited. Meanwhile, India cannot take high moral ground on the case, with its own unedifying record on the subject, as reflected in the following two cases.
 
The first case on abortion was decided by the Bombay High Court in 2008. The court refused permission to abort a 26-week foetus with a claimed serious heart defect after rejecting the mother’s plea to terminate the pregnancy in a case torn between trauma and ethical issues. Dismissing an application filed by Niketa Mehta, the court observed that medical experts did not express any “categorical opinion that if the child is born it would suffer from serious handicaps”. The court noted that considering the defects as they are, experts are not sure whether cardiac surgery will be required at or after birth and added that even if the couple had approached before 20 weeks, it would not have been possible to allow abortion, as the medical opinion was to the contrary.
 
The court had given the petitioners – Niketa, her husband, Harsh, and their doctor Nikhil Datar – liberty to seek an independent opinion. The court took into account the opinion of three-member panel of doctors of JJ Hospital, which contradicted its earlier finding when it said there were “least chances” that the child would be born with a handicap. The panel earlier had said there were “fair chances” the child would be born handicapped or incapacitated. (Incidentally, the hospital and its doctors did not cover themselves with glory when they put this contradiction to typing error.)
 
Niketa sought an amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 so that the pregnancy can be terminated even after 20 weeks if the doctor believes that the child, if born, will have serious abnormalities, so as to render it handicapped. As per the then 37-year-old Act, a pregnancy can be terminated after 20 weeks only if there was a fatal risk to the mother and not the foetus.
 
Writing on the subject in The Times of India, Puneet Bedi, a specialist in foetal medicine, said: “Law, ethics, religion and science cross paths in medical practice every day, but no issue is as contentious as abortion. It generates passionate opinions at both extremes. While abortion as a right is debatable, nobody except those with extreme pro-life views argue against aborting an obviously abnormal foetus. Laws have been amended in most countries to allow late abortion since prenatal diagnostic techniques became available. In UK, a grossly abnormal foetus can be aborted at any stage of pregnancy. Even countries where special needs children are provided for by the state, strict laws only lead to illegal abortions and ‘abortion tourism’. In a country like ours, with little social support and no public funding to look after special children, the government’s right to dictate to individual couples by legislation is questionable.”
 
The second case on the subject surfaced in Lucknow, which reached the High Court at the end of April 2005. A 27-year-old airlines executive, Rajiv Nandi, had filed a writ petition seeking to prevent his wife from having an abortion, claiming it would infringe on his right to fatherhood. His petition before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court said that he wanted to “protect his right to fatherhood by preventing his wife, Rekhi, from aborting their baby, due in November.” According to his petition, the couple, married in November 2004, had excellent courtship and happy relations for two months after the marriage. Then things soured and on April 20, the couple came to blows and the matter reached the police station where a compromise was worked out. Apparently, that didn’t hold and Rekhi went back to her parents at Birbhum in West Bengal. With her parents’ intervention (interference?), the situation got even uglier.

It is at this stage that Rekhi told Rajiv that she was expecting a baby, and that she had got the pregnancy confirmed by an ultrasound test. But now, in the hostile circumstances, she would abort the baby. Along with the plea to protect his paternity claim, Rajiv also challenged the validity of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, under which termination can be carried out upon the request of the wife alone; the husband’s consent is not required. The conclusion of the case is not tracked and is not relevant in the present context.
 
An American writer once wrote:
“Men have dirty habits,
They breed like fertile rabbits.”

Perhaps the writer missed the mark. Men sow the wild wind (seeds), leaving the women to incubate and reap the proverbial whirlwind. Men have casual flings and leave the women to carry the burden of pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing. Rajiv’s paternity rights suit should be viewed in this context.

Abortions are sought for many reasons: When the marriage is broken and when the wife is pregnant. When the child is born following rape or incest. When the mother loses mental balance, and is incapable of looking after children, as highlighted in a Bengali couple’s case in Denmark – earlier this year.
 
So, the current revival of the subject because of the Indian’s death in Ireland provokes renewed debate on the subject. What is your stand?


 
John B Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger) with provision for instant response.

 

 

READ 'EXCLUSIVE ARCHIVES'
Comments on this article
Molly Lobo, BangaloreWednesday, December 05, 2012
I feel we must all read this book " The God's Delusions " by Richard Dawwkins.

A preeminent scientist and the world's most prominent atheist asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.

With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster.

There is alo to learn from this book.
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Louis D'Souza, KuwaitSunday, December 02, 2012
In exceptional cases like Savitha's Abortion should be allowed in Catholic states. Saving life of the mother is as important as saving life of a child. In India abortions are allowed as there is over population. But in Europe it's diminishing.
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Melita D'souza, Mangalore/UAEThursday, November 29, 2012
Mr. Monteiro,

You have managed to skillfully slander a mother by declaring that a mother's love as quoted by notable poets isn't as pure in todays world.

When you conciously choose a subject as contentious as you have, the focus should be on facts and not assumptions. Irrespective of the debate on abortions, aspersions on a mother's love is uncalled for and unnecessary. For the thousands of women opting for abortions, there are millions who choose motherhood.

Let's celebrate that fact.
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Dr. B. Rebello, Mangalore/Abu DhabiThursday, November 29, 2012
GOOD REVIEW MR. MONTEIRO BUT OUT OF CONTEXT TO DR. SAVITAS CASE.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED IN HER CASE IS INITIALLY THERE WAS FOETAL HEART BEAT DETECTED AS IT SOMETIMES HAPPENS IN MISSED ABORTION SO THEY DECIDED NOT TO DO AN ABORTION AS IT IS NOT ALLOWED AS PER IRISH LAW.

BUT ITS INTERESTING TO KNOW AT WHAT INTERVALS THEY KEPT MONITORING F.H.R. SO THEY COULD HAVE INTERVIENED WHEN IT STOPPED TO SAVE HER LIFE FROM IMPENDING SEPSIS.

HERE A REVIEW OF HER MEDICAL RECORDS IF AVAILABLE SHOULD HELP TO GET THE FACTS.

SOME EUROPEAN COUNTRIES LIKE IRELAND, GERMANY ETC DONT ALLOW ABORTION BUT THEIR NEIGHBOURS LIKE NORTHERN IRELAND, HOLLAND ALLOW.

SO PEOPLE HAVE TO TRAVEL JUST ACROSS THE BORDER TO GET AN ABORTION DONE IF NEEDED.

BUT I THINK IN DR.SAVITAS CASE SHE WAS TOO SICK TO TRAVEL WHEN IT HAPPENED.

I REMEMBER WHEN I ATTENDED JOB INTERVIEWS IN ENGLAND AND THEY SEE MY RELIGION MENTIONED AS CATHOLIC USED TO BE ASKED ABOUT MY VIEWS ON ABORTION AS MOST OF THE HOSPITALS PRACTICE IT AND EXEMPT DOCTORS FROM TAKING PART IN ABORTION IF POSSIBLE AND IF THE STAFF SITUATION ALLOWS.
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Blaan Mendonca, USAWednesday, November 28, 2012
In a circumstance of life and death, the patient and doctor must decide abortion to save the mother. If the religion does not permit to kill under a serious circumstance than at the same time religion does not say do not save the mother or kill the mother. Religion is to do good, it says love your neighbor. So in this case to save the mother it was important to do abortion and save the mother. Religion does not have hard and fast rules or laws. God is for the sick, needy, and the poor, God is loving. We need to see the circumstances and situations.
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Arun , BelmanWednesday, November 28, 2012
The whole episode of Mrs.Savitha shows that arguments,questions around the abortion laws of Catholic Ireland.Many said that if it was in India may be she could have been saved! We don't have Medical revelation of the Hospital by Media yet, Was there a negligence/delay from Doctors who treated her? or If there was a worse,critical mystery in Savitas womb health which didn't allowed physicians to clean the fetus as per their wish within those last minutes..? Only a proper & thorough Medical investigation can decide about this.
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R.Bhandarkar., MWednesday, November 28, 2012
American Men have Dirty Habits-Too
But They hardly Breed like Fertile Rabbits...... (Are they an exception to the rule?-Many according to a recent survey- Peck, Poke, Peep and Run...)
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DR SUNIL J RAO, MANGALORE/BAHRAINWednesday, November 28, 2012
Dear Mr D'souza, greetings, " What makes us decide whose life is more important the mother's or the baby's?? If it is ok for a mother to kill her child for whatever reason..." Sir What is your stand if the pregnancy is causing a grave risk to the LIFE of the mother, What do you decide if the mother has developed DISSEMINATED INTRAVASCULAR COAGULATION (DIC) as a result of a miscarriage-that-has not-aborted(MISSED ABORTION).Please sir, read this word by word and give me a specific answer. I respect your views 100% even if I don't agree with them we mangaloreans are known for this culture. Regards
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DR SUNIL J RAO, MANGALORE/BAHRAINWednesday, November 28, 2012

Thank You John for an excellent introductory article on a very contentious issue. Firstly, I appeal to one and all to analyse this (and such issues) untainted by one's affiliations to sect or faith. We indians need to develop a scientific temperseparate from the orthodoxy that our faiths, on some occassions, try to propagate.
Do we agree , all of us , Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, that a blanket ban on MTP-in-early-pregnancy should not be part of a civilized society ?? Do we agree, as a civil society, that an MTP should be permitted at any stage of pregnancy if the continuation of pregnancy endangers the LIFE of the mother (as against the health of the mother). In Savitha's case,it seems she had ,what is called,a missed abortion, the doctors in Galway told her they cannot terminate the pregnancy as the fetal heart beat is present.(and of course-that "this is a catholic country").

How can a physician abrogate his responsibilities to his patients by saying such things. Even if Ireland is a catholic country a MTP is permitted if there is evidence of incipient sepsis or DIC .I've read the concerned law in the constitution of ireland. In my view Savitha's case is a case of medical negligence under IRISH LAW. (i may be wrong in my reading of it, but that's my view at the moment.) And folks , please do not quote any scriptures on this forumwhat happened with Savitha is not an indictment of the catholic faith, It is a negligence of the application of the law.

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G.D'Souza, Mangalore/SharjahWednesday, November 28, 2012
I totally concur with what Dr.Savita says and thank you Mr.John B. Monteiro for your wonderful article. At least 1 Catholic spoke up the truth. Just because the baby doesnt have a voice in the womb doesnt mean it is not human. What makes us decide whose life is more important the mother's or the baby's?? If it is ok for a mother to kill her child for whatever reason, then it is ok for a brother to kill his sibling because he is in the way of his prosperity, or any other killing. Abortion is just a loose word thrown around. Everyone who supports it should go into details of how it is done. And the press is usually quiet on the several cases of botched abortion leaving the mother dead or with complications for the rest of her life. The abortion industry is a mulitmillion dollar industry.
perhaps the following link will make you better understand the details of how an abortion is carried out.. http://www.sancta.org/patr-unb.html
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Dr. Savitha Pereira, MangaloreWednesday, November 28, 2012
Good article Mr. John B Monteiro.

When any religion does not permit killing or murder of human being no one has the right to decide on 'ABORTION'. Because abortion is mere killing/murder which you cannot see, as the baby is in the womb. people must view the real video that was shot during an abortion and that can help them understand what I mean. Many educated do not have the knowledge about abortion and its process. If they knew, they would not have had such controversies. If anyone can decide on abortion then they should also abort (I mean kill) their parents because their parents did not abort them and today they decide on killing the one who is able to feel the world in the womb but not yet seen it. they are ending a life.
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