Indian authorities continue crackdown on illegal abortions

By Dave Andrusko

(Representative Image)

The Indian Express is reporting that

Barely five months after a sex-selective abortion racket was unearthed at Mhaisal in Sangli district of Maharashtra [a state in the western region of India], district authorities of Solapur have lodged two separate cases against four doctors conducting abortions at unauthorised centres. The authorities have filed cases against these doctors for violating provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

The charges come after The Times of India reported last month that the health administration in Solapur district raided the hospital of Tejas Gandhi and his wife Priya and determined they had “carried out five sex determination tests and 36 abortions at their facility.” The couple were also charged under the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. It is illegal to use ultrasounds to determine the sex of a baby.

In the most recent cases, two of the physicians—Dr. Tejas Gandhi and Dr. Priya Gandhi, who run the Siya Maternity and Nursing Home in Solapur–are under arrest, according to Anuradha Mascarenhas. The other two have fled

The sting operation is part of 35-40 similar operations conducted by “Lek Ladki Abhiyaan,” a non-governmental operation, run by anti-sex selection advocate Varsha Deshpande. The NGO sends in “decoy patients to identify unscrupulous doctors involved in sex-selective abortions,” Mascarenhareprot reported.

“We found that Dr. Tejas Gandhi, who had a case filed against him in 2007 under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, was involved in illegal abortions. Deshpande told The Indian Express. “He had been acquitted by the sessions court in the earlier case and his sonography machine had been released. Along with Dr. Priya Gandhi, he had been running the Siya Maternity Nursing Home, which is not registered as a medical termination of pregnancy centre.”

Dr. M Patanshetti is a district civil surgeon in Solapur. He told The Indian Express that investigations had shown that at least 36 women had aborted at the Siya Maternity Home between May 2016 and July 2017.

“These abortions were illegal as the centre had not been registered under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,” he told Mascarenhareprot. “We examined the records on August 24 and seized the ultrasound machines and other documents. … The doctors were arrested on August 25 and remanded to police custody till August 28,” he said.

As NRL News Today reported in August, the illegal abortions heightened concern over the state of Maharashtra’s child sex ratio. In 2015 there were 907 girls born for every 1,000 boys, already a serious imbalance. In 2016, there were only 899 girls born for every 1,000 boys.