As a woman and as a Public Health practitioner, women’s sexual and reproductive health is of extreme importance and relevance. So, I thought I could start off this series with a look into Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP), in layman’s terms Abortion. There’s no better place to start than at home, Chennai. MTP raises a variety of moral, social and legal questions. If the pregnant woman feels the necessity to terminate her pregnancy, does she have the right to do so? If she does upto what moment and on what conditions? MTP is legal only upto 20 weeks of pregnancy and only under certain specific conditions, such as:
- If continuation of the pregnancy would be a risk either physically/mentally to the mother
- If the woman is not ready to become a mother yet
- If the fetus shows abnormality in the scan and tests, which would prove that it would be born severely handicapped. According to the Declaration of Chennai, Review of the MTP act in order to halt sex selective abortion, in 2007, it was established that it is the Woman’s right to chose to carry the child to term or terminate the pregnancy. All this information was easily accessible and very informative.
The provision for MTP services was the next big question on my mind. So, I did a quick search on public domain with simple keywords like, abortion clinics in Chennai, MTP clinics in Chennai, government abortion clinics etc. This is some of the information that I could gather. Abortions are done in a hospital or in a clinic that specializes in abortions and both may have separate requirements. To have an abortion in a hospital, you may need to visit a birth control clinic, your family doctor or a women’s health centre first. In both the clinic and the hospital, the actual procedure takes about 10 minutes but they may insist on keeping the woman under observation as seen fit. Some of the places where you can get the required information on MTP services are:
- A women’s healthcare centre at a hospital
- A Planned Parenthood Association
- Your nearest public health unit
- A birth control centre
What is given and what is not!
However, beware! There are also quite a few illegal MTP centers in several areas around Chennai. So kindly enquire thoroughly before choosing a clinic. On further research into the number of centers, I found that over three-quarters of abortion-certified facilities are in the private sector. MTP is every Woman’s right and to deny her the same, is not only a violation of her rights but also, putting her in harm’s way. An online search fails to provide easy access to information on MTP clinics in Chennai. It just gives us a clinic name and address in the yellow pages or Just Dial.
Any online search result does not provide reviews or description of services that could help a woman in need to decide if it would be the right place for her. With the importance of that decision weighing down on her while she is going in for a procedure that is emotionally and mentally gut wrenching and nerve wracking, it would definitely be much better if the search would yield, more in-depth results. I found the names and addresses of around 90 Clinics and hospitals with Obstetricians and Gynecological services of which only 10 to 15% were government institutions.
A holistic approach is needed that will not lead to more women seeking out unsafe abortion providers, resulting in an increase in maternal deaths. A long-lasting solution can be achieved, only by bringing about a cultural change and definitely not by clamping down on abortion services and drug availability. India is far from this goal but She is most definitely on Her way, one step at a time!
Dr. Meenakshi Thiagarajan is a dentist and a Public Health professional. Women’s sexual and reproductive health are her areas of interest. In her free time, she pens her thoughts down. You can find her writing on social stigmas.