India Considers Letting Homeopathic Doctors Prescribe Abortifacients

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D, NRL Director of Education & Research

Editor’s note. This story appeared in the March digital edition of National Right to Life News. This story, and all the great content of the current 39-page issue, can be accessed at www.nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/NRLNewsMarch2015.pdf

timesofindialogoreIt is a short story from the Times of India, but perhaps the portent of a bigger story that may soon reach round the world and is already evident in many U.S. states.

The headline of the 3/4/15 story simply is, “Ayush doctors may get nod to do abortions.” “Ayush” is a term unfamiliar to a lot of western readers, but it is actually an acronym for several alternative or traditional Indian medical practices – Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy.

In 1970 India’s parliament set out qualification and accreditation standards for practitioners of what is generally termed “Ayurvedic” medicine.  The following year, the Central Council of Indian Medicine was established under the Department of AYUSH of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to monitor higher Ayurvedic education.   The Indian government supports teaching and research in these traditional medicine and there are many clinics across the country staffed by graduates of national governmental institutes.  [1]

Now, through the Times of India story, comes word that the Indian health ministry has made revisions on an amended “Medical Termination of Pregnancy” bill being sent to the cabinet. The amendment would allow Ayush doctors to do “non-invasive procedures on women seeking to terminate pregnancy.”  In other words, chemical abortions.

The Times says that there are some 7 million abortions conducted every year in that country.  (By contrast, there are just over a million abortions a year in the U.S.).

The proposed  revisions come over objections of the Indian Medical Association, which expressed concerns that this could put patients at risk and allow for sex selection abortion, which is a hugely significant problem and illegal in India.  A particular worry was that doctors without the usual standard medical training would have difficulty handling conditions like excessive bleeding and incomplete abortions, which sometimes occur with chemical abortions.

The article does not specify the abortifacient to be used. But abortions performed with mifepristone and misoprostol, both with multiple generics on the market in India, have been associated with significant numbers of complications in the U.S. Those complications include infections, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, hemorrhages, and other “adverse events” that have, in more than a dozen cases, proven fatal. Even “successful” chemical abortions are extremely bloody and painful.

According to the Times of India, the government’s proposal was based, to some extent, on a some (unspecified) study conducted by the Population Council – the group that was responsible for bringing the RU-486 “abortion pill” to the U.S. The aim is said to be “increasing access to safe abortion by expanding the number of healthcare providers.”

The newspaper also notes that the World Health Organization (WHO) seems to endorse the government’s proposal. That is a reference to a 2012 WHO technical and policy guidance document that argues abortion can be done by “mid-level providers” such as “midwives, nurse practitioners, clinical officers, physician assistants, family welfare visitors, and others” who are properly trained “to provide basic clinical procedures related to reproductive health…”

Before dismissing such concerns as unique to India or nations far removed from home, Americans should consider what has happened in states such as California. We have written how the state has, for some time, allowed non-physicians like nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to perform chemical abortions. In 2013 the state  passed a law allowing these personnel to even perform first-trimester aspiration abortions.

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In the same vein, Planned Parenthood’s giant Midwest affiliate Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) began performing “web-cam” abortions in Iowa in 2008. The abortionist is never in the same room as the pregnant woman.

Typically, he is in Des Moines, chatting by video with a woman who may be in some rural storefront a hundred miles away or more.  After a short interview and review of medical records, the doctor clicks a button on his computer releasing a drawer at the woman’s location containing the abortion pills.

If there is any physical examination, a check of vitals, an ultrasound, etc., it is done by a lower level clinician. In Iowa, these were often not doctors or nurses but “certified medical assistants,” which may have done as little as three semesters of college study, performed just a ten week practicum, and passed an exam.

Aware of the serious risks associated with chemical abortions, the Iowa Board of Medicine was not satisfied with PPH’s protocol and passed a rule that would essentially end web-cam abortions in the state (a rule currently in the courts). Nevertheless, other Planned Parenthood affiliates have looked at the PPH model and sought to institute web-cam abortions in their own states.

The common thread, both here and in India, is the effort of abortion advocates to make up for the dearth of abortionists by enlisting lower level medical personnel, with perhaps the barest of the usual medical training, to expand abortion to areas where facilities and trained physicians are lacking.

The point is that the decision of the Indian government to bring in homeopaths, ayurvedacharayas, and other practitioners of alternative medicine to do chemical abortions is not altogether unique or surprising, given the larger, long-term aims of abortion advocates.

So don’t be surprised when they try something similar in your state.

[1] Though there are some surgical techniques associated with Ayurvedic medicine, a lot of it involves yoga, meditation, diet, and the use of certain herbs, minerals, animal products.  The U.S. does not license Ayurvedic practitioners and while Ayurvedic medicine is not generally recognized in the West, there are Ayurvedic herbs that can be bought at your local Walmart and practitioners who work in the U.S. as midwives and massage therapists.

Concerns about heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic) found in certain Ayurvedic products prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put an import alert on those products sold in the U.S. in 2007 and a consumer caution in 2008.