Who makes the choice?

Apr 6, 2015, 16:17 IST


What happened with Purvi Patel?
Last week Purvi Patel became the first pregnant woman to be charged, convicted, and sentenced for intentional miscarriage in the US. The incident took place in July 2013 when Purvi Patel went to St Joseph hospital in Mishawaka, Indiana, with heavy vaginal bleeding. As to what exactly happened before she went to the hospital, there seems to be no clear answer to that.

According to Purvi, the baby was already dead when it was born and she even tried to revive it. When asked why she didn’t call 911, Purvi claimed that she was in a state of shock. The foetus, approximately 23-24 weeks old, was found in a dumpster. The police claim they found messages in her cell phone that indicate she purchased abortion-inducing drugs online. The prosecution said that she took the drugs that eventually caused her miscarriage. What’s interesting though is that there were no traces of these drugs found in Purvi’s blood.

Purvi was charged with both child neglect and foeticide and sentenced to a 20-year long prison term. Both these charges are contradictory as neglect means she neglected a live infant, while foeticide means that the baby was born dead.

India vs Indiana
Abortion is illegal in the US. Indiana’s foeticide law, made to target illegal abortion providers, seems to be targeting the women instead. The same laws that are supposedly made for women’s protection are abusing their rights today.

As per India’s abortion laws—the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971—only qualified doctors, under stipulated conditions, can perform an abortion, and then only in a clinic or a hospital that has government approval to do so. As per the MTP Act, a pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner if the length of the pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks, if the doctor knows that the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the expecting mother, if the child suffers from physicial or mental abnormalities, if the pregnancy has occurred as a result of rape, or the failure of the contraceptive.

We need answers
Does Purvi really deserve to be behind the bars? Should a woman have the right to make the final decision on whether she wants to carry her pregnancy to full-term, if she finds out that her unborn child may be born with defects? And can the law force a woman to bear a baby that she doesn’t feel equipped to parent?

Browse the internet for just five minutes and you will find oodles of information on forced sterlisation in India. However, with the case of 33-year-old Purvi Patel coming to the fore in Indiana, US, I am worried about the phenomenon of forced motherhood!

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