Niketa Mehta's gynecologist found out that the fetus might be born with heart problems, which might require a pacemaker almost immediately after birth. Not the best news for any parent. Niketa and her husband, Haresh, decided to abort the fetus and spare the child the possible trauma and low quality of life.
However, it was past the 20th week of pregnancy, and Indian law makes it illegal to abort fetuses at that stage. So, the Mehtas went to court. According to the Times of India, the court ruled that "Undoubtedly, the doctors opinion shows a substantial risk that the child would suffer severe abnormalities. But the opinion itself discloses the necessary treatment to be given with a rider that as things stand a cardiac surgery is not required at birth. In the end, there is no clear opinion that if child is born it would suffer serious mental or physical handicap. It is not mere desire to terminate pregnancy that would entitle a woman to abort her fetus. The legislature in its wisdom has stipulated a time bar of 20 weeks. There is nothing in the petition to suggest that the bar is placed arbitrarily or without logic. Since there is no case made out for us to exercise our discretion to permit the abortion, we dismiss the petition."
The Mehtas are, obviously, dejected--they know they have to carry on with the pregnancy fully aware that the child will have problems from the first second in this world and, for all we know, suffer a sudden death. They point out, "what is disappointing is that we have been proved to be fools. We are educated fools. People in remote areas go to quacks for an abortion. The lesson here being sent out is: don’t follow the law. We are being punished for being law-abiding citizens"
Kalpana Sharma in The Hindu comments that "the question of choice is restricted to an urban class in India that has access to and can afford to use technology to monitor the progress of a pregnancy. Poor mothers have neither the time, nor the money, to go for regular check-ups during pregnancy. If they and the child survive the pregnancy, that in itself is often a miracle given the high rate of maternal and infant mortality in this country. And if at the end of nine months, a deformed or incapacitated child is born, the gods are blamed for it and life goes on. The question of choice simply does not arise, not on whether to get pregnant, or on what to do about an infant with severe health problems.
Niketa and Haresh will now have to live with the choice that has been made for them by the court and the law. But they should be lauded for being open and seeking a legal way out. As a result, they have thrown open an important issue for people to understand and debate."