Friday, December 21, 2007

India's Legal Abortions Kill 80,000 Women Annually, Local Expert Says

by Steven Ertelt, Editor
December 20,

New Delhi, India ( -- A medical expert in India says an estimated 80,000 women die from legal abortions there on an annual basis. The figures provide further evidence that abortion does not became safer if legalized, as unlicensed and unregulated abortion practitioners pose as much of a threat to women's health as illegal abortions.

Dr. Hema Divakar, the chair of the Federation of Obsteric and Gynecological Societies in India discussed the abortion deaths in an interview.She told the PTI news service that a majority of the abortions done in India involve untrained abortion practitioners.

Divakar said the answer to the problem of women dying from abortions is to promote the morning after pill. She cited figures showing 78 percent of pregnancies in India are unplanned and said women would not resort to abortion if they used the pill and didn't become pregnant.

However, previous reports show that abortion numbers in Scotland rose after an aggressive effort to promote the morning after pill there. The Scotland government reported 13,081 abortions in 2006, up from 12,603 the previous year -- an increase of nearly 3.8 percent.

Abortion is causing other problems in India as a new report shows the gender imbalance there is growing worse as a result of infanticides and sex-selection abortions.

Researchers from relief group ActionAid examined a sample of 6,500 households in the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

They found that the male-female ratio grew worse in four of the states compared with the figures from 2001.

According to a Reuters report, upper class Hindu areas of Punjab's Fatehgarh Sahib district had the worst rates as the organization found only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys living there.

"These sex ratios are disastrous," Mary John, a researcher from the Centre for Women Development Studies in New Delhi, told Reuters.

She said the new numbers reflect a trend of having smaller families. Couples are choosing to have only one child and deciding to only have a boy. India follows the beliefs of other Asian nations in favoring boys to carry on work and family names and because girls must have expensive dowries upon their marriage.

John said the skewed gender ratios occurred in virtually every community regardless of socioeconomic status, race or religion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In a selective mode

Edit, Hindustan Times, Decmber 11, 2007

The means and manner in which female foeticide and infanticide have been addressed in our country are worthy of intense scrutiny. The latest suggestion has been offered by Minister of Health Anbumani Ramadoss in the Rajya Sabha, and will soon be discussed by the Central Supervisory Board, the body tasked with enforcing the Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PNDT) and headed by the minister.

The minister intends to make the penalties for violation of the PNDT Act more stringent, including life-term. Considering that battling female foeticide and infanticide has been an ongoing war with limited results, stricter monitoring is certainly welcome. But one wonders whether it is the existing penalties that fail as deterrents or the inability to push through charges and close the loop of justice. For in the same breath, the minister himself has gone on to say that the conviction rate is extremely poor. So, more severe penalties are unlikely to improve the conviction rate.

The steadily declining sex ratio in the country, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh — home to some of the most affluent sections in India — cannot be corrected through the confiscation of ultrasound machines or giving incentives to families where girls are born either. Which brings us to the crux of the problem. Delicensing of practitioners should be an immediate step, pending acquittal. In the current status, the onus should be on the doctor to prove his innocence.

It has been established that sex selection and foeticide, the worst form of discrimination against girls, is chiefly practised among wealthy, educated (if they can be called that) urban families. What purpose do incentives serve here? On the other hand, the medical fraternity and support staff are known to misguide the poorer, illiterate patients on ultrasound results, playing on anti-girl prejudices and encouraging abortions, all under the guise of ‘guidance’. The minister may want to review the modalities of the successful experiment by district level officers in a cluster of 79 villages near Ludhiana a couple of years ago. Deterrence (enforcing the law), counselling (community education) peer pressure (holding last rites after abortions to unnerve the family and doctors) and incentives for informers were the tools used to bring about an appreciable change in attitude.

Incentivising informants is a good idea, as is random supervision of the 32,000 ultrasound clinics in the country. Roping in the judiciary towards improving conviction rates is also a positive step. But at the end of the day, are there enough foot soldiers to carry out the battle of supervision? State governments must have a greater level of accountability for their state’s enforcement of the PNDT Act. Public campaigns are a must but a slower route towards impacting mindsets. Let’s just start with curbing doctors’ malpractices and find the means to push through convictions.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Foeticide may carry life term

Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss told the Rajya Sabha on Friday that the government intends to make life imprisonment as a penalty for violations of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994. He said that central supervisory board for implementation of the PNDT Act is slated to meet next week and this issue of life imprisonment could be taken up. He informed the house that there were 403 pending cases and 132 ultrasound machines have been seized and sealed under this law. In this year, about 125 cases have been reported and there have been four convictions. He acknowledged that the conviction rate was low as foeticide is a clandestine affair.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Licence of Delhi Gynaecolgist suspended after BBC report

Licence of Indian gynaecologist was suspended after a BBC report into female foeticide. Dr Mangala Telang a Delhi based gynaecolgist was filmed offering an illegal ultrasound scan, although she denied any wrongdoing. Her two Delhi clinics have been shut down. The BBC had sent a British couple to one of Dr Telang's clinics in Delhi after hearing that her clinic would offer ultrasound scans to determine the sex of a baby. In the BBC film, Dr Telang was caught agreeing to perform the scan to determine whether the woman's unborn child was a boy or a girl - even though a sign in the waiting room clearly said the practice was illegal. As per the story on BBC web site Dr Telang had told the BBC team she could recommend someone to carry out an abortion if the foetus was female. Despite India's strict laws to prevent female foeticide, prosecutions remain rare, adds BBC web site

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Indian women in UK aborting daughters

Indian women in the UK are aborting daughters in order to have more boys, an Oxford University study has found. The research indicates that 1,500 girls have gone 'missing' from the birth statistics in England and Wales since 1990. Dr Sylvie Dubuc, who studies human geography and population at Oxford University, studied birth rates of different ethnic groups in England and Wales, and was surprised by what she found "According to my calculation, around 1,500 girls are missing. It's significant compared to the total number of births," she said.

Dr Dubuc found that the proportion of boys over girls has increased over time abnormally. The most probable explanation, she said, seemed to be sex selective abortion by a minority of mothers born in India.

According to a BBC report, it was not just women born in India who were prepared to go to extremes to ensure they have a male heir, even British women following in the footsteps of their Indian counterparts. BBC claims an estimated seven million girls have gone missing from India's population over the last 25 years. Selective abortion is happening all over India as ultrasound machines have become cheaper, but it has always been worst in Punjab and Gujarat.