Two separate incidents of foetuses dumped carelessly inside a Delhi government hospital and a posh residential building in Gurgaon have once again put the spotlight on unsafe abortions that continue unabated in the Delhi-NCR region.
On the afternoon of February 20, a five-month-old male foetus was found in the women’s toilet of a Malviya Nagar government hospital. It is suspected that later that same day, cleaning staff at World Spa East, an upscale highrise in Gurgaon, found a four-month-old female foetus in a dustbin.
Dr. R. Chugh, medical superintendent of the hospital where the male foetus was found, said the abortion may have been induced by drugs, but did not break the law. More forensic tests are required to determine how the foetus in Gurgaon was aborted.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) states a person may approach a registered practitioner for abortion services “where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks.”
The abortion of the female foetus in Gurgaon also falls within this stipulated time period. However, the disposal and discovery of the foetuses raises questions about whether normal procedures were followed. Both the cases have been registered with the police, and await investigation.
The Supreme Court has in the past made exceptions to the 12 to 20 week rule in cases where the pregnant woman’s life or health is endangered. However, moving the court to recognise one’s ‘exceptional’ case is not always an option available to everyone. And this may well be one of the reasons that abortions like these continue across the country.
Unsafe abortions pose significant health risks to some 6.8 million women in India, and it is reported that every two hours one woman dies because of this.
Incidents like these point towards the dire need for stronger reproductive health rights in India. In fact, it was in September last year that a Bombay High Court bench pushed for the MTP to mention a woman’s full right over her body. Using arguments similar to the ‘pro-choice’ movement in the US, it asked that women be allowed to opt for abortion services as per their own discretion.
To make this a reality, and to eliminate incidents like the two cases in Malviya Nagar and Gurgaon, all Indians must be provided a range of reproductive health options, from contraception, to sex education, to abortion services.