This is a dilemma that no human being, be it a doctor or a judge, would want to face –making a choice between saving a life of two children.
Leading gynaecologist and social activist Dr Nikhil Datar was visited by a mother on August 9, 2017, whose 12-year-old daughter is 27-weeks pregnant. “This is the first time I have got a case of this nature. While her family is in shock, this little girl, who is well past the 20-week mark for abortion, is oblivious of her condition. As a doctor, I too feel helpless,” he said.
Dr Datar told My Medical Mantra that a case has been registered under the POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, the bigger challenge will be to help her get permission from the Supreme Court for abortion (MTP-Medical Termination of Pregnancy). “It is traumatic for both the child and parents. It took time for me to convince them to register case under POSCO Act as they were not aware about the legalities. Now the challenge is to get this case heard by the SC at the earliest, so that we can help this child and family from further trauma,” he added.
So far, Dr Datar has helped nine women get permission from the SC to abort their unborn children post the 20-week deadline because diagnostic tests showed the foetuses had severe deformities.
“This is first time I have received a child, who is beyond 20 weeks pregnant. The family was worried about her gaining weight and assumed she had thyroid. By the time they took her to a doctor, she was in her 27th week of pregnancy. They were then referred to me,” informed Dr Datar. The petition will be submitted to the Supreme Court on today. The family too is in a process of filing another petition with SC to hear their petition at the earliest.
Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), said, “It is unfortunate that a 12-year-old has to undergo this. This also shows lack of education and awareness in our society on good touch and bad touch and also about laws.” FOGSI is the umbrella body of gynaecologists in India which has 34,000 members.
Dr Dhillon Pai added that at her age, the body is not prepared to carry the child for full term and the case needs to be expedited. “It is detrimental to both her physical and mental health to carry the child full term. Such cases should be individualised and heard at the earliest,” she said.
This case comes close on the heels of a 10-year-old from Chandigarh, who was 32 weeks pregnant, and was denied permission for abortion by the Supreme Court late last month. The court had cited that following an assessment of the girl, medical termination was not safe for her and had directed that she be given proper medical care.
In May, the SC allowed a 10-year-old rape survivor from Haryana to abort her unborn child in the 21st week of pregnancy.
In India, Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Dr Datar has two more women who have crossed the 20-week deadline and want abortions because their unborn children have life-threatening defects. They have approached the SC.
Medical experts in India have been demanding that a few abnormalities should be included as a valid reason for MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) after 20 weeks and empower women to make a decision on whether they choose to go ahead with the pregnancy or not.