Divided reactions over court order allowing Mumbai nurse to terminate foetus with Down syndrome
The Supreme Court recently allowed a woman from Mumbai to selectively terminate one of her twin foetuses which is said to have Down syndrome. This has been allowed even though the nurse has passed the legal time limit for abortions. The report has evoked strong reactions from many people, who say this underlines the need for greater awareness and support for people with disabilities and their caregivers.
‘Shameful’. ‘A quest for flawless babies.’ These are some of the reactions on social media to a newspaper report on a recent Supreme Court order allowing a Mumbai nurse to terminate one of her twin foetuses which is said to have Down syndrome. The court has allowed this even though she has passed the legal time limit for abortions under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.
A genetic disorder, Down syndrome is caused due to extra genetic material from chromosome 21. The disorder causes a distinct facial appearance and certain developmental delays. Speaking to The Times of India, the nurse and her husband said they made the decision given the difficulties faced in raising a child with disability.
Indicates larger mindset about Down syndrome
Days after the order was passed, the report continues to evoke strong reactions, much of it targeting the couple. However, as Dr Rekha Ramachandran, Co-founder, Down Syndrome Federation of India (DSFI), points out, there is no right and wrong in the issue.
The fact is that everyone is worried about having a child with any type of disability”, said Dr Rekha, who is a parent to an adult with Down syndrome. “Even a cleft palate gets people into a panic! We have to look at it as an individual”.
Instead, she says, one needs to look at the perceptions about Down syndrome that are still prevalent.
No one who has seen a person with Down syndrome from up close will take such a step. What this shows is the picture that has been painted to this couple. And the fact is that in India, we are always petrified about ‘who after me’. In any other part of the world, the government takes responsibility and offers support. It’s easy to say life is precious but it is finally an individual decision. – Dr Rekha Ramachandran, Co-founder, Down Syndrome Federation of India
Dr Rekha came up against the perception battle as well when she contracted German Measles during her pregnancy. “The doctor told me I should abort given the consequences, but my family stood by me. I finally believe that it’s all about karma because you will have a child with special needs if he/she chooses us. We are all chosen because we had the capacity to handle it”.
Parents come together to spread awareness
A large part of the problem stems from lack of awareness. Something that Tejal Shah, co-founder of Bangalore Humsafar, a support group for parents with children with Down syndrome, is trying to address. Tejal says it is important to empathise with the Mumbai nurse and not judge.
“The decision comes from poor awareness and stigma about Down syndrome”, says Tejal, who is also a parent to a child with the condition. “I had a similar mindset when my child was born. If people are aware and know how to handle the situation, then the decisions taken would be different. I understand her worries. There are also many people choosing to adopt a child with Down syndrome and that comes from a place of greater awareness. As parents, we have to spread the awareness as we are experiencing it”.
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