Plans to Revise Criteria for Abortion
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02 April 2011
By Durgesh Nandan Jha
New Delhi, India
More than 20,000 women in the city went for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) between April and December 2010. In the year before that, between March 2009 and April 2010, a total of 39,443 MTPs were carried out. With the census data showing a decline in the girl child sex–ratio, the state health ministry is now thinking of revising the criteria for abortions which can be a result of sex–determination. Health Minister A K Walia said on Friday that all medical abortions conducted after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be strictly monitored and action will be taken against erring medical practitioners.
According to a survey report on MTP prepared by the family welfare department of Delhi government, there are a total of 567 approved medical centres where abortions can be carried out. "Under the existing policy, the medical centres conducting abortions are not liable to reveal the medical condition under which an abortion is carried out. Also, we have no data on how many abortions were carried out after 12 weeks of pregnancy, when it is possible to determine the sex of the child through tests, including ultrasound. This will be reviewed and stringent guidelines will be put in place to ensure that not a single girl child becomes a victim of female foeticide," said a senior official, who did not wish to be quoted. He claimed that the number of abortions conducted in 2010–11 is definitely going to be less.
The MTP Act allows termination of pregnancy on medical grounds, including abnormalities in the foetus, contraceptive failure and risk to the mother’s physical and mental health. But experts point out that many patients, in collusion with gynaecologists, undergo abortions only because they do not want a girl child. Said Ranjana Kumari, director, Center for Social Research, "More than 80% medical abortions conducted here are actually female foeticide and it is practised not just at the approved medical centres but at private nursing homes and by private practitioners. So nobody is caught," she said.
Experts say prosecution of those violating the MTP Act and Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, 1994 is rare. In Delhi, a total of 1779 complaints were received by the family welfare department under PC & PNDT Act in the past one year in which allegations of sex–selection tests, non–registration of clinics and advertisement for sexselection tests were made. A total of 447 such centres were issued show–cause notices, 51 were suspended and the licences of 73 offenders were cancelled. "There are 61 court cases," said a senior official.
Social activist Dr Sabu George said the PC & PNDT Act is not being implemented properly due to which illegal medical centres continue to conduct sex–determination tests which is leading to female foeticide. "The law should be strictly implemented across states for better results," he said.