AYUSH doctors to conduct safe abortion in 25,000 primary health centres,
NEW DELHI: India, where a woman dies of unsafe abortion every two hours, may soon allow abortion services in its 25,000 primary health centres, which are the first points of care for India’s rural population.
The health ministry is also looking to allow “mid-level service providers” like staff nurses and ayurveda, unani and siddha (AYUSH) doctors to conduct safe abortions ( thanks to the lack of MBBS doctors in the country’s rural areas, who are the only ones allowed to conduct an abortion.
India has been quite vocal in expressing shock on Savita Halappanavar’s death in Ireland. But India itself has a shamefully high death rate due to unsafe abortions or lack of availability of abortion services.
National Rural Health Mission chief Anuradha Gupta said abortion-related deaths contribute to 8% (approximately 4,600 deaths annually) of all maternal deaths in India.
Experts say even as India protests to Ireland around Savita’s death, it is actually among the 11 countries responsible for 65% of all maternal deaths globally resulting from unsafe abortions.
“Savita’s death is one among 358,000 maternal deaths annually (based on 2008 WHO data) around the globe. Since she died, more than 1,000 other women have also died every day, due to the combination of obstetric complications and inadequate, inappropriate or no treatment,” an expert on abortion services said.
India has been dragging its feet on a proposal to extend the cutoff time to legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy to 24 weeks since 2006. At present, according to the country’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), 1971, women can abort an unwanted pregnancy till 20 weeks.
A committee was constituted to draft recommendations to The MTP Act in 2006. A number of meetings were held till 2010 to finalize the amendments with the primary focus of allowing nurses and AYUSH doctors to carry out abortions.
Studies show that only one MTP trained provider is available for 2.24 lakh rural population.
NRHM’s Gupta told TOI, “There is a high attrition rate among MBBS doctors working in rural areas whereas among staff nurses and AYUSH doctors, it isn’t so. With proper training, this cadre can be effective in carrying out safe abortions, healthy deliveries and insertion of intra uterine devices.”
According to health ministry data, the number of induced abortions has started to dip in India. However, in absolute numbers, India in 2008 saw 6.41 lakh abortions across 12,510 institutions approved to carry out medical termination of pregnancy.[Source]