updated 8/4/2008 2:59:57 PM ET 2008-08-04T18:59:57

An Indian court on Monday rejected a woman's petition to abort her 25-week-old fetus with a congenital heart problem, saying the law does not permit such late-term abortions.

Last month, Niketa Mehta, 31, her husband, Haresh, and their gynecologist, Dr. Nikhil Dattar, petitioned the court to allow an abortion. Their lawyer, Amit Karkhanis, says the couple can't afford to pay for the frequent change of pacemaker that the fetus' condition would require.

The Mehtas, who found out after 24 weeks that the fetus had congenital heart disease, fear the quality of the child's life would suffer, Karkhanis said.

But the Bombay High Court said that it was up to Parliament and not the court to change the provisions of Indian law, which specifies that a pregnancy cannot be terminated after 20 weeks unless the mother faces a medical risk.

India's attention has been riveted on the case, which has sought to challenge the country's 37-year-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act that permits abortions after 20 weeks only if there is a risk to the mother.

Abortions are legal in India until the 12th week of pregnancy. Between 12 and 20 weeks abortions are allowed if either the mother or the fetus faces a health risk.

Dattar said he believes the option should have been left to the parents.

"My plea was that the decision is best left to the parents who will take care of the child," he said. "We sought the opinion of many doctors and we were worried about the quality of life the child would have."

The Mehtas did not indicate on Monday whether they would appeal the case in India's highest court, the Supreme Court.

Jayesh Kamath, a member of the Indian Medical Association, described the court's verdict as a victory. "Children with pacemakers can lead full lives," he said. "If this case was accepted, then people could abort babies on any ground."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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