Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 13:52 UK

India court in key abortion order

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Niketa and Haresh Mehta (Photo: Fotocorp)
The couple say they may not be able to afford the medical expenses of their baby (Photo: Fotocorp)

A court in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) has rejected a couple's plea to abort their 25-week foetus.

The case was as a key test of India's abortion law, which does not permit termination of pregnancies after 20 weeks unless it is fatal to the mother.

Niketa and Haresh Mehta approached the court after doctors told them that the baby had a congenital heart block.

The Mehtas took judicial action last week after doctors refused to abort the foetus. It is the couple's first child.

'Least chances'

The Mumbai High Court constituted a committee of doctors last week to assess the risks if the baby was allowed to be born as well as the risks to the mother if an abortion was allowed.

The committee told the court on Monday that there were "least chances" of the baby being born with a handicap.

Doctors also said it could be risky for the mother if she had an abortion at such an advanced stage of pregnancy.

The couple had urged the court to allow a delayed abortion because they learnt about the problem only in the 24th week of pregnancy.

Their doctor told the court that certain ailments could be detected only between the 20th and 24th week of pregnancy.

In their submission before the court, the couple said the child would need a pacemaker from the birth and would not be able to lead a normal life.

They also said that they may not be able to afford expensive medical treatment for changing the pacemaker every few years.

A pacemaker operation costs nearly $2,500.

An NGO offered to look after the baby if it was born with defects but the Mehtas turned down the proposal.


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