Health Ministry drops abortion proposal

abortionsNEW DELHI: Succumbing to unrelenting pressure from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), an umbrella body of gynaecologists, the Union Health Ministry has decided to downplay its own proposal of allowing midwives, homeopaths and Ayush doctors to perform abortions.

With pressure mounting from doctors and their associations, the Health Ministry had now decided that these healthcare specialists may only be allowed to carry “non-invasive” procedures.

In its draft medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) bill, the Health Ministry had proposed an amendment to allow midwives to terminate pregnancy, which had received a lot of flak.

With the final changes in sight, the ministry is expected to take the draft of the MTP bill to the Cabinet soon.

“The government is considering watering down the proposal and considering that these healthcare specialists be allowed to carry out the non-invasive part, which would mean prescribing medicines etc,” a senior official in the health ministry said.

A proposed amendment also enhances the period of abortion till 24 weeks.

FOGSI and IMA, in their recent meetings with the Health Ministry, had vehemently opposed the ministry’s decision, saying that “abortions performed by them could pose a grave threat to women and will give a rise to sex-selective abortions”.

While ministry officials say that FOGSI members were part of the consultations and supported the amendments earlier, the IMA, which opposed the amendments from the very beginning, went ahead and even wrote to the Prime Minister asking for the withdrawal of the new amendments.

FOGSI secretary-general Nozer Sheriar had earlier said that wider discussions on the issue made them change their mind.

“We supported the amendments initially. However, there were lot of internal discussions and the position that we have taken now is that abortions should only be done by a gynaecologist or at least an MBBS doctor.

“As far as the scarcity of doctors at the PHC level is concerned, I believe periphery needs to be strengthened.

“Enough support has not been provided by healthcare providers, the way it is done in railways and armed forces. Moreover, a much larger debate is required before any decision is taken,” he said.

Significantly, the Women and Child Development Ministry, the National Commission for Women and other women’s groups had supported the draft bill.

Approximately 64% of the responses received by the ministry were in favour of the draft. According to the figures available with the government, out of six million abortions every year in the country, 55-60% are unsafe, with the younger population being the usual prey to complications. – From The Asian Age

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