47 years after legal sanction, only 22% women have access to safe abortion: Study
Deccan Chronicle| ABILASH MARISWAMY
Poor states with the high unmet need for contraceptive services tend to have a higher demand for abortion services.
A mere 22% of more than 15 billion abortions conducted annually are within adequate health facilities accounting to almost 10 deaths per day
Bengaluru: Though Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 was passed 47 years ago, safe abortion continues to be a distant dream for most women in India.
Nearly 78% of more than 15 million abortions conducted annually are outside health facilities, accounting to almost 10 deaths per day, stated an IndiaSpend report.
Lack of access to safe abortion due to shortage of services, inaccessible health services and insufficient legal providers are the main causes, say health experts.
"Poor states with the high unmet need for contraceptive services tend to have a higher demand for abortion services. But at the same time supply of quality abortion services are least in these areas. Given the limited supply of quality abortion services in public and private sector, pregnant women end up going to unqualified providers, after their attempt to terminate pregnancy through household remedies and over the counter drugs have failed," said Prof Daya Shankar Maurya, of International Exchange and Collaborations & Chairman at Healthcare (HCM) TAPMI.
The report also stated that there is only one licensed provider for 224,000 women in rural India. Additionally, many women continue to be unaware about abortion being legal and so do not know about the accessible-safe services.
Dr Gayatri Kartik, obstetrics & Gynaecology, Manipal Hospitals said, "Improving the awareness of primary contraceptives, sex education in schools, free availability of condoms, and more information around complications associated with abortions along with the emphasis on confidentiality of the patient are important."
In addition, the stigma regarding abortions is still deeply rooted, making it the third largest cause of maternal death, the report mentioned.
"Basically, women who want to terminate a pregnancy want privacy and would not want family members to know about the same. It is essential to have stand-alone clinics which offer contraception as well as termination of pregnancy. Family planning clinics should provide information leaflets in English and the local languages. As healthcare professionals we have to make an effort to spread awareness to women in the reproductive age group, the contraceptive options available and the methods available for termination of pregnancy," said Dr Gayathri Kamath, Obstetrics, and Gynaecology, Consultant Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road
Dr Usha Manjunath, Director, Indian Institute of Health Management and Research (IIHMR) said, "Unsafe abortion is a major concern. The reasons vary from unplanned pregnancies to inadequate counseling. Legalization of abortion services alone is not going to benefit the efforts to bring down unsafe abortions; availability of fertility regulation methods and contraceptive choices along with educating adolescents and vulnerable populations is crucial."
Experts stress the prior importance of enhancing awareness about safe abortions at various levels and the growth of officially approved medical facilities as some steps towards making safe abortion services more accessible.