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Sony, Here’s What Your ‘Debate’ on Abortion Gets Wrong 

Zindagi at Crossroads is the latest Sony offering that debates whether an abnormal pregnancy should be aborted.

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Sony, Here’s What Your ‘Debate’ on Abortion Gets Wrong 
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Picture this. You’re about to become a parent. Some reports are in, other tests are ongoing. You’ve made your plans as a soon-to-be parent and everything seems in place until... there is an unexpected problem. More conclusive reports reveal anomalies with the foetus. If it’s allowed to develop into a baby, there is a confirmed possibility of disabilities in the baby.

Now, would you go ahead with the pregnancy or would you terminate it? That is the premise of the first episode of Zindagi ke Crossroads, a ‘debate’ show hosted by actor Ram Kapoor on Sony Entertainment Television.

To begin with, you’d like to argue it’s your and only your decision to make. It’s a personal choice and nobody else, a parent or not, has a right to decide for anyone else how they wish to proceed with the pregnancy.

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All That’s Wrong With Sony’s Latest Offering

This is one of the many problems with Zindagi ke Crossroads. Aired at 8:30 pm on Wednesday, 6 June, the show explores the life of a young couple, about to have a child when they discover there is something wrong with the development of the foetus.

The doctor, who is also related to the couple, advises them to abort the pregnancy. The short clip about the couple’s life ends and the debate is then opened to a live audience. While an emotionally charged audience, some who are parents of special needs children, fights it out verbally, the viewer is left wondering - who are we to decide?

But wait, it doesn’t end here. To make matters worse, along with the live audience, the viewers sitting at home can send in their responses which are read out from a huge screen.

The advertisement shows the woman placed between two options.
(Photo: Newspaper Photograph)

There is more - the promotion of the show ahead of its premiere included a print advertorial in a leading national daily. It placed the woman between two options - “playing God” (abortion) and “saving motherhood” (not abortion). There are your two black and white choices, ladies and gentlemen. It generously uses the word ‘baby’ and ‘child’ to refer to a foetus that is less than 20 weeks old, the headline even stating, ‘Mother Asked To Kill Her Child.’ There, in that sentence is everything that is wrong with the show.

No, it still doesn’t end. The advertisement shows a heavily pregnant woman, while in the show, the pregnancy is not only under 20 weeks, but owing to this is also within the legal time limit of seeking an abortion in India.

But I wouldn’t opine on this anymore and leave it instead to experts.

‘You Will Get Sympathy as a Parent, But No Assistance’

Dr Puneet Bedi, gynecologist and obstetrician, Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, says that the solution here is not holding public discussions, but what he calls “non-directive counselling”.

Granted the couple cannot take this decision on their own. There will be guilt, feelings of isolation. It’s important instead to be informed, that can be achieved through medical insights, non-directive counselling which is free from the doctor’s own biases, and help of professional counsellors and not simply doctors.
Dr Puneet Bedi
Neha, the actor from Zindagi ke Crossroads.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screenshot)

There should be a difference between reporting and counselling, stresses the doctor. Informing the parents of the facts is reporting, but explaining to them all the implications of the pregnancy over a period of time and allowing them the space to rationally and logically mull it over is counselling.

If after this, they reach the conclusion of aborting the baby, there is nothing ethically and medically wrong with it. If you’re raising a child with different needs, you will have everyone’s sympathy, but there won’t be anyone to give you assistance. Either one or both parents might even have to quit their jobs to take care of the child. This is why it’s important to let the parents, and more importantly, the woman decide what she wants to do. This is her right.
Dr Puneet Bedi
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‘Keep the Conversation Sensitive, Not Sentimental’

Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, President Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction and Consultant Gynaecologist Jaslok, Lilavati and Hinduja hospital, Mumbai, says it’s important to talk about these issues, but in a sensitive manner. It is important to ensure the conversation is mature and is held by experts - psychologists, doctors and counsellors.

“It’s all about the woman’s choice”, says Dr Pai.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

At the end of it all, it is absolutely imperative to remember, Dr Pai stresses, that the choice is entirely of the woman.

The matter is extremely personal and entirely between the woman and the baby. Even the husband does not have a say in this. It’s all about the woman’s choice, everything else is secondary. Her emotional, physical, financial concerns are none of your business. Who are you to say yes or no?
Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai

She goes on to add that a woman in such a scenario would have her entire life ahead of her. As long as she lives, she will be taking care of the child.

Speaking from a position of experience, Dr Pai says that the suffering and trauma is indeed a lot for the family.

Additionally, when you discuss such a topic in a public space and reach a conclusion by majority voting, you are damning someone who did not make that choice, asserts Dr Pai.

For instance the majority says such a woman should not go ahead with the abortion. By saying this, you have simply damned another woman who might be going through the same experience. There is no opinion to be given in such a case, no judgment to be passed, and there is definitely no fixed answer or right and wrong.
Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai

Yes, the country has moved ahead to talk about previously tabooed topics like menstruation and sanitary pads, yet putting up a hoarding about pads and another about abortion is just not the same thing, concludes Dr Pai.

The show might be well-intentioned, but it gets the execution and the action absolutely wrong. If its mawkish nature was not enough, the tone see-sawed entirely between sentimentalism and didactic voices. The rationality and sensitivity, away from the rhetoric that Dr Pai spoke of, was entirely missing. In this world of hits and misses, Zindagi ke Crossroads was definitely the latter.

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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