The number of abortions carried out in Mumbai has doubled over the past five years, according to the BMC family welfare department, which recorded 34,790 abortions between April 2015 and March 2016, the highest ever in a 12-month period. By comparison, 15,959 abortions were recorded between April 2011 and March 2012.
Though the number of abortions carried out in the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy has risen significantly — from 12,893 in 2011-12 to 32,725 in 201516 — the number performed after the first trimester, during which sex determination is possible, has fallen from 3,066 to 1,329 over the same period.
Advocate Varsha Deshpande, who runs a non-profit that works to improve the state’s sex ratio, claimed the fall in second-trimester abortions shows that while some clinics continue to perform sex-determination tests, fewer parents are choosing to abort girls. “Clinics that conduct sex-determination tests are making the same money but the number of girls being aborted has dropped,” she said.
BMC officials attributed the rise in the number of abortions to a recently introduced online reporting platform for doctors. “Earlier, doctors would not report abortions performed using pills. Now those cases are also being reported,” said a senior official from the BMC’s family welfare department.
However, some activists disagreed. “If reporting has indeed improved, then the number of abortions after the first trimester should have increased too, not dropped,” said Deshpande. He said some doctors may be reporting second- trimester abortions as first-trimester ones.
A doctor told HT the law that allows a woman to have an abortion also expects the clinician to record the reason for it, but added that at least 75% of couples cite contraception failure as the reason. “Condoms and intrauterine devices don’t have such a high failure rate. The problem is many couples use natural methods of contraception, which are unreliable,” said Dr Nikhil Datar, senior gynaecologist, Cloudnine Hospitals.
Gynaecologists said the exact number of abortions performed after the first trimester is difficult to determine as they are associated with sex determination. “Maybe the number of abortions has not actually dropped and more women are going to unregistered clinics as medics are hesitant to perform second-trimester abortions,” said a doctor.