In foeticide crackdown, legal abortion too stops
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Eighteen weeks pregnant, she had two weeks left to have a legal abortion. Yet every private hospital in Pune turned her away, with gynaecologists afraid to touch her. The hapless woman thought of seeking help from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) unit of state-run Sassoon General Hospital but finally, officials there said, lost her nerve as she did not want an abortion at a hospital that was not "hygienic".
This woman's case in Pune has echoes in various districts in Maharashtra, where it has become almost an unwritten rule among gynaecologists not to take up cases related to abortions in the second trimester, which starts after 12 weeks.
A crackdown starting from Beed, where 12 female foetuses were unearthed, coupled with health authorities inspecting records statewide to check illegal sex selection, has sparked a wave of fear among gynaecologists, radiologists and even chemists.
The move has boomeranged, admitted Dr Ajit Patil, a member of the state supervisory board for the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act. "We have raised this issue in our meetings as the MTP Act allows a woman her right to abortion," said Patil.
He cited an incident at Ichalkaranji near Kolhapur, where a woman aborted outside a private maternity home and was later treated by the doctors for heavy bleeding. The doctors called up the civil authorities implementing the Act. Yet the next day, news items appeared about how a "suspicious sex selective abortion was performed at the maternity home". "This is a frightening episode and the matter was taken up till the district collector," Dr Patil said.
Dr Anil Patil, secretary of the Indian Medical Association in Jalgaon, agreed. "Second trimester abortions have come to a standstill. At Bhusawal near Jalgaon, doctors are terrified that their centres will be sealed or get unwanted publicity. In one incident, the doctor refused to hand over the bodies of stillborn twins delivered by a woman until the police were notified and a panchnama was made."
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