The number of abortions reported in Maharashtra has been rising for the past three years. It rose sharply from 39,222 in 2009-10 to 95,332 in 2010-11, and was recorded at 1.11 lakh in 2011-12, according to the data released by the Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
The DHS collects data on medical termination of pregnancies (MTPs) conducted in public hospitals as well as private hospitals and clinics. “There is a rise in the number of MTPs in the last three years. But it is not possible to link MTPs to sex-selective abortions. The higher numbers are a result of better reporting,” said Dr A Khade, assistant director, DHS.
In 2010-11, across the state, the highest number of MTPs was reported in the Thane region, which includes Mumbai. Thane region saw 20,028 abortions, followed by Pune region with 16,975. Beed region reported 949 abortions in the same year.
The state has also witnessed a four-fold rise in the number of abortions conducted in the second trimester (between 12 and 20 weeks) of pregnancy. In 2009-10, 2,256 abortions were conducted in the second trimester. This figure rose to 8,664 in 2010-11.
According to doctors, an ultrasound test can reveal the sex of the foetus only after the 13th or 14th week of gestation. Activists said that abortions conducted between 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy need to be monitored carefully, as the possibility of sex selective abortions are higher after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“The rising number of second-trimester abortions is a clear indication of sex selective abortions,” claimed Varsha Deshpande, founder of Lek Ladki Abhiyaan, an NGO. “The state has done little to curb abortions reported in the second trimester. Sex determination and abortions are related to each other and both need to be monitored strictly,” she added.
Doctors said it is difficult to establish that an abortion conducted in the second trimester is an act of sex selection. “People tend to give reasons such as failed contraception and unawareness of being pregnant to abort the foetus, as the MTP Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks,” said a city-based gynaecologist.
“There are better facilities available for detecting genetic abnormalities, which are usually detected in the second trimester. This could be the reason for the higher number of abortions post 12 weeks. But a rise in women opting for abortions in the second trimester is not a healthy trend as it is risky for the mother,” said Dr Ashok Anand, professor of gynaecology at JJ Hospital.