Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | News

India launches new initiatives to improve access to safe abortion care

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

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.”

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