The state, which is looking to stop the unauthorised termination of pregnancies, is considering banning the sale of abortion pills at chemist shops. The decision on this issue will be taken in November.
It is part of the 29 recommendations put forth by the state committee formed to control unauthorised abortions. There are certain conditions under which the state permits the termination of pregnancy (see box), and anything that does not meet the criteria is considered an illegal abortion.
The panel has suggested that the state make these pills available only through registered medical practitioners who will get it from the government.
These abortion pills are different from contraceptive pills and the ‘morning after’ pills and are meant to terminate a pregnancy that has already taken place.
“This is one of the major recommendations, which we are likely to accept. The plan is to set up a mechanism to not only stop the open sale of these pills but also ensure that the medical practitioner buying them has a record of where the medicine is going,” said health minister Suresh Shetty.
Often, the pills are self-administered pr then prescribed by quacks and taken without medical supervision, said Shetty. “These medicines have huge health implications and cannot be consumed without monitoring,” he said.
The government has been forced to take the issue of illegal abortions seriously after 15 dead female feotuses were found abandoned in a rivulet in Beed in central Maharashtra in June. The fetuses were aborted illegally following sex determination tests that showed they were female.
“In Beed, where there were huge cases of female feoticide, it was found that a particular doctor was buying 60% of the pills off the shelf and giving it to patients. It’s a dangerous trend that we want to curb,” Shetty said.
The state currently allows chemists to sell only two such drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – and through with prescription, and they have to be taken within the first seven weeks of pregnancy. However, the committee headed by Dr Sanjay Oak, who is director of medical education and major hospitals in the state, in its report said: “The reality is that providing the abortion pills without prescription is a fairly common occurrence in India.”
The report recommends that a registered medical practitioner can prescribe the drugs only if s/he has access to a health centre prescribed by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
The panel also suggests a three-visit schedule (to the hospital or clinic) for the termination of pregnancy so that the effects of the drug can be monitored and patient can be counselled.