Mumbai- One in two people don’t know abortions are legal, says survey

By, TNN | Mar 18, 2013,

MUMBAI: One in two people in the city’s western suburbs don’t know that abortions are legal but 65% know that it’s illegal to find out the gender of the unborn child, a new survey says. This, public health experts say, shows how the government’s fight to save the girl child could inadvertently compromise the woman’s right to abortion. The result: Mortality rate as high as 8% amongwomen who are forced to approach ill-trained practitioners for abortions.The survey was by Women Networking, an umbrella group of voluntary organizations, in slum pockets across Andheri to Malwani and the results were published last December. It interviewed 700 people, mostly women. “The government is rightly publicizing the PCPNDT Act that prohibits sex-determination tests and sex-selective abortions, but it has not been highlighting the women’s right to abortion. There is confusion among people over the legality of abortions,” said Laxmi Menon, a coordinator with Women Net- working.

Discussions have begun at public health forums about how the state government’s mission to save the girl child is encroaching on her mother’s right to abortion. In 1971, the Union government presented the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to allow women to undergo abortion for family planning. In 1994, the government passed the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT) to ban determination of the unborn child’s gender.

After the first results of the 2011 Census showed falling sex ratio at birth (number of girl children born for every 1,000 boys) across Maharashtra, the state government cracked down on clinics that failed to follow PCPNDT Act rules. In 2012, 400 criminal cases were filed in courts against doctors and other staff. The Maharashtra Medical Council cancelled the registration of 35 doctors indulging in sex-selective abortions.There are many causes of skewed sex ratios in the under-5 age group. One reason is neglect of the girl child. Policy initiatives don’t look at these issues and only talk about clamping down on abortion

At a meeting of women’s groups in Andheri on February 27, Cehat coordinator Padma Deosthali said the government has been unable to check ‘sex-determination’ and hence shifted focus to controlling ‘sex-selective’ abortions. “In the process, it began cracking down on abortion services across the board,” she said.

The government announced two decisions that ‘stigmatize’ abortions in general. It attempted to ban abortion pills and sought reduction in gestation period for medical termination of pregnancy from 12 weeks to 10 weeks. The anti-sex selection campaign and right to abortion campaign are not on opposite sides, and should be working towards the health rights of women and preventing gender-based discrimination.

Dr Suchitra Dalvie, a coordinator with Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, said the main problem was women have begun accessing unsafe abortion options, such as approaching quacks. Health economist Sundari Ravindra said 15,000-20,000 women die every year due to lack of access to safe abortion practices.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Mumbai- Over 400 cases of illegal sex tests in a yea , 34 doctors in jail | Forum against Sex Selection (FASS)
  2. Trackback: Hard labour for abortion pills as strict rules spook chemists #MTP #abortion #reproductiverights | Forum against Sex Selection (FASS)

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