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‘Fair and Reasonableness’ in Disability Selective Abortions


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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

South Asia Center Presents

‘Fair and Reasonableness’ in Disability Selective Abortions: Extension of Rights Proportionality for Persons with Disabilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities 

Disability selective abortions are legally sanctioned in most of the world. However, this unproblematic legal order is rendered questionable by the new rights paradigm brought by the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).   The UNCRPD necessitates all social institutions to adhere to an equal rights paradigm. India has both signed and ratified the Convention.   However, the Supreme Court of India has adjudicated disability selective termination for the one fetus with disability while preferring the other without disability in a twin pregnancy in Komal Hiwale’s case. The apex court in its construction of a sophisticated term, “selective fetal reduction” has permitted preference for life without disability. This talk will explore the issues around the right of equality and non-discrimination affirmed by the UNCRPD and the consequent domestic laws instituted in India. 

Smitha Nizar
Fulbright Post-Doctoral Visiting Scholar
Syracuse University  College of Law

Smitha Nizar is a Fulbright Post-Doctoral Visiting Scholar from India. In her post-doctoral research, she examines the need to align India’s national laws with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and to uphold the basic rights for persons with disabilities.  Her previous study, The Contradiction in Disability Law:  Selective Abortions and Rights (Oxford University Press, 2016), has highlighted the contradicting legal order on disability-selective abortion which is discriminatory and in violation of the international law. Dr. Nizar’s study also reveals how disability-selective abortion is inconsistent with the UNCRPD and its life-affirming paradigm. This research will benefit India and the United States by urging the respective law makers to revisit the specific laws.

Prior to her research visit to Syracuse, Dr. Nizar was teaching and practicing law in India.  She volunteers her time as the Legal Officer of a disability rehabilitation organization, where children with disabilities are supported and educated from the very early stages of life. She dreams for a world where disability is accepted as a general human condition, to treat persons with disabilities as all others.  

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