Woman dies following illegal abortion, Indian officials hunt for doctors performing sex-selection screenings

Arrest follows second “successful” attempt to abort baby girl and death of her mother

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note, Tamil Nadu, one of India’s 29 states, lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula. Salem is a city in Tamil Nadu.

24-year-old Lakshmi Manigandan died April 19, following the second attempt to perform a sex-selection abortion on her baby girl, The News Minute [TNM] reported over the weekend.

According to reporter Priyanka Thirumurthy, Dr. Selvamba allegedly convinced Manigandan to undergo a chemical abortion after an ultrasound performed April 18 confirmed Manigandan’s “fears”: she was carrying a baby girl. Manigandan was already the mother of a two-year-old girl.

Under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, “no laboratory or centre or clinic is allowed to conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus,” Thirumurthy reported. The Act’s intent is to “prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic techniques for sex selective abortion.”

 

On April 19th, when Lakshmi still didn’t feel the effects of the abortion pill, Dr. Selvamba gave her another dosage. That is when the excessive bleeding began. With no intensive care unit in place or facilities to care for the complications her patient was facing, Dr. Selvamba then proceeded to remove the patient’s uterus. It was only after this that she admitted that she was ill equipped to deal with the case and Lakshmi was referred to a multi-specialty hospital in Salem.

But “It was too late by then,” Superintendent Kamalakannan from the Directorate of Medical Services told the newspaper. “[S]he was there at the hospital by 6 pm and died at 9.30 pm.”

They arrested Dr. Selvamba and booked her under the PCPNDT Act. She is only the second person in the state of Tamil Nadu to be arrested under this Act.

During the investigation of the first person charged under the Act, authorities learned “that the Saravana scan centre in Salem was conducting sex determination tests,” TNM reported. “It was when we were waiting outside Saravana scan that another patient told us about Dr. Selvamba,” Superintendent Kamalakannan told TNM.

The team set out to capture the practitioner red handed too but the pregnant woman they had employed for the purpose complained of fatigue and requested to be excused. With no ‘set-up’ in place, they could only pull her up for lack of documentation. Doctors were expected to keep records of pregnant patients for up to two years.

Superintendant Kamalakannan told reporter Thirumurthy that when authorities learned of Manigandan’s death, they went back to investigate Dr. Selvamba.

She initially denied having treated the patient. But we then found blood tests she had conducted. We arrested her immediately.”

Superintendant Kamalakannan told TNM he felt “his mission was not completely successful.”

“Lakshmi’s two-year-old child came up to and asked for her mother, it was just so saddening.

“But with such strong evidence against these doctors, we will ensure they face jail-time for what they have done.”

An official in Salem told the newspaper “that these stringent measures to curb female feticide in the district will continue.”

“We know these illegal activities are underway in certain pockets. So we are calling upon the people, men and women to help us stop it.”