MUMBAI, India – An Indian woman who sparked a nationwide debate by demanding a late-term abortion after her fetus was diagnosed with a heart defect has delivered the baby stillborn, her husband said Thursday.
The delivery came eight days after the high court in Mumbai rejected Niketa Mehta's challenge to the law that bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Mehta's husband, Haresh, blamed the turmoil of the case, which made headlines across India.
"Niketa was under a lot of stress. She was upset and tired," he said. "Although we are in pain at the loss, God spared our child a life of agony."
The Mehtas went to the court after the fetus was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in the 24th week of pregnancy.
They argued that aborting the fetus would spare the child lifelong suffering and said they could not afford the constant medical costs that would entail.
The court rejected the plea, saying only Parliament could change Indian law. India's 37-year-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act specifies a pregnancy cannot be terminated after 20 weeks unless there is a health risk to the mother.
Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect and are the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. from birth defects during the first year of life, according to the American Heart Association.
Most children with "simple defects" survive into adulthood and lead normal or fairly normal lives, but in some cases exercise capacity is diminished.
Severe congenital heart disease requires extensive financial resources both in and out of the hospital with many children suffering developmental delays, as well as learning and physical difficulties, according to the heart association.