Why this Mumbai woman wants her baby to die after birth

Asmita Sarkar
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After her initial happiness on getting pregnant, a 28-year-old Mumbai woman now wants her child to die after birth. Her unborn child has been diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Type II syndrome, a structural defect in the brain. 

The Supreme Court refused her appeal to abort the child as her pregnancy has progressed beyond the permissible time span of 20 weeks for abortion. She is 27 weeks pregnant and greatly upset over the deformity in the child. 

"Now I wish my baby dies after birth," she told the Indian Express. 

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She found in September 2016 that she was pregnant and towards the end of the fifth month of her pregnancy she found out about her child's defect. Her brother suffers from a similar brain defect. 

"I have looked after him for 10 years. We know how helpless parents can get seeing their child physically and mentally disabled," she said. Her brother is paralysed from waist down. He needs to be lifted and rolled from one side to the other every two hours to avoid bed sores. He has not gone out of the house since birth. 

"I can't see my child bear this pain. I am not sure if I ever want a second pregnancy now," she said. Her father and husband are also in favour of the abortion.

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"We are not allowed to abort an abnormal foetus. Does the government assure financial and health-care support if they are forcing the baby to be born?" her 60-year-old father told the publication. 

After finding out about the deformity in the child, they went to the Supreme Court, but the court refused their plea. The hearing in the case was also delayed due to Holi festival holidays and the Mumbai doctors' strike. 

Under Indian law, a foetus can be aborted only up to 20 weeks. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2014, seeking extension of permissible period for termination from 20 weeks to 24 weeks in case of deformity found in the child has still not got a nod from the Cabinet. It is still in a draft format. 

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The survival rate of the child increases with progress in the pregnancy. The survival chances are near zero in the 21st week of pregnancy, and go up to 80 percent after 26 weeks.

"What's the use of diagnostic facilities if we can't find a solution after diagnosing a defect in the foetus?," Dr Nikhil Datar, gynaecologist who counselled the woman, told the newspaper. "This is the system's failure," he added. "Poor patients like her are forced to visit the court for abortion because usually diagnosis in their case gets delayed."  

She had initially consulted a civic hospital in Borivali, but when the doctor told them to get another sonograph and return a month later, they decided to go to a private doctor, who confirmed that the child will be born with deformity. 

The child might develop symptoms like dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems, headaches and problems with balance and coordination. It could be born with paralysis and malformed backbone.

What causes Chiari malformations?

The deformity can take place due to genetic mutations and lack of nutrients in the maternal diet. The child would be born with a malformed skull and spinal cord. The malformation usually develops during foetal development, but it can happen later in life due to injury, infection and exposure to toxic substances.  

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