India launches new initiatives to improve access to safe abortion care

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Indian Family

The government of India has launched two national initiatives aimed at saving women’s lives by making comprehensive abortion care accessible to more women. Even though India enacted a liberal abortion law more than 40 years ago, an estimated two-thirds of abortions in India are unsafe and a woman dies from complications of unsafe abortion every two hours.

The initiatives were launched at a national consultation organized in May by the federal Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ipas. The two-day consultation brought together nearly 200 representatives of federal and state governments, civil-society organizations, development partners and medical professionals. Dr. Rakesh Kumar, the Ministry’s Joint Secretary for Reproductive and Child Health, said it was the largest-ever meeting of its kind in India and had served, in particular, to raise state governments’ awareness of the need for safe, comprehensive abortion services.

The first initiative is a national training package on comprehensive abortion care. The package includes standardized manuals for trainers and providers, up-to-date information on medical termination of pregnancy and operational guidelines for implementing agencies. The second initiative, a mass media campaign, will use television and radio spots to raise public awareness that legal, safe abortion services are available.

During the consultation, federal officials reemphasized their support for proposed amendments to India’s abortion law which would, among other things, expand the base of abortion providers by authorizing midlevel providers to legally perform abortions. They also reiterated their commitment to address the negative impact on safe abortion services created by the drive to prevent gender-biased sex selection.

 Other key issues discussed at the consultation were the need to provide postabortion contraceptive services to women who desire it—particularly young women—and to develop effective service delivery approaches that include post-training support for providers.

Highlighting the fact that action for safe abortion care is vital for the health of Indian women, the Health Secretary Lov Verma said he is proud that the government and other stakeholders are taking action on this “sensitive yet critical issue.”