SAVE A GIRL CHILD- State plans 10-week abortion limit for contraceptive
The Maharashtra Government is fighting female foeticide on a war footing and wanted to tighten the abortion laws under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and Rules in order to protect the unborn girl child. If the reason cited for the procedure is ‘failure of contraceptive, the Government wants to prevent the women who are more than ten weeks pregnant, from undergoing an abortion.
After the 12th week of pregnancy, it has been made possible to determine the sex of the foetus.
The State Health Minister, Suresh Shetty, stated that the contraceptive failure is exploited by couples and is used as an excuse to abort the female foetuses. Only after attaining the approval from the centre, these recommendations can be enforced.
Presently, the pregnancies could be terminated up to the gestation period of 20weeks, under the MTP Act of 1971. The ten weeks failure would be enforced only upon those women, who have listed contraceptive failure as the reason of abortion provided, approval has been given by the centre for the same.
If the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of mother or if the doctors find a malformation in the foetus, then termination of pregnancy after 10-weeks (and before 20 weeks) will be allowed in such genuine cases. The Government is considering closing solo Sonography Units, besides recommending that the abortion time limit be reduced to 10 weeks.
On Friday, the State Health Minister, Suresh Shetty, along with other ministers travelled to Maharashtra’s worst affected district Beed, which stands first in the lowest boy-girl ratio. A series of meetings were held there with district, health, police officials and NGOs.
The Health Minister stated that, such measures would play a vital role in reducing the female foeticide which unbridled not just in Beed but across Maharashtra including cities like Mumbai. He added that the Government is planning to shut down the existing stand-alone Sonography centres and to introduce more tough norms in order to prevent new units from cropping up in urban and rural Maharashtra. It was also recommended by the minister that, only in two hospitals in a district the radiologists would be permitted to work and and strict action would be taken not only against the doctor who is caught for carrying out the sex determination tests or performing female foeticide, but also against the government officials, health department officials as well as the police in charge of the district if they are found to be negligent in the enforcement of the law.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act that was passed in the year of 1971 , is a Union Government Act. The State can make recommendations and it is up to the centre to move the same as an amendment or not. The suggestions made by doctors, NGOs and the Sonography centres would be incorporated by the State Government and the same will be drafted by the health department after consultation with the department of law and judiciary. It will be forwarded to the centre for its approval, once it is approved by the State Assembly.
Shetty was speaking at the State supervisory board meeting that was organised to review the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in the nine districts of Marathwada, which recorded a drastic decline in the child sex ratio in Maharashtra.
According to State Health Minister, Fauzia Khan, it is necessary to remove the thoughts that consider the boys as an assent and the girls as a liability.
For tackling the female foeticide, all the universities in Maharashtra would be roped in to strengthen the ‘Save Girl Child campaign, a website would be launched on 11th of July where anyone is free to register a complaint against a Sonography centre and also, a full time helpline would council people on the appropriate use of Sonography tests.
The appointment of a district legal advisor, who will work in tandem with the administration and pursue legal matters, will be made by all the district collectors, who are empowered for the same.
For the effective implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, every district collector should form a task-force and chalk out a strategy as per the needs of the area.
Report by Sharika