Kohima | January 12
Nagaland is seeing a sharp increase in the number of abortions or Medical Termination of Pregnancies (MTP) according to HMIS data from the National Health Systems Resource Centre (nhsrcindia.org) and information collected from the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) clinic in Kohima.
According to the HMIS data, from 2015 to 2016, 3152 abortions were conducted in Nagaland. Most women seeking abortions here fall within the age group of 15 to 40 years.
However, the number seems higher as the data provided by the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), Nagaland shows that in 2015 alone, 3928 abortions were conducted in the FPAI Reproductive Health and Family Planning Clinic, Kohima.
The data also indicates an increase in the rate as 2,253 abortions were conducted in 2013, followed by 2834 abortions in 2014, 3928 in 2015 and 1818 from January to June 2016. It may be noted that the FPAI data is separate from the State Government’s HMIS data.
According to a leading Gynaecologist in Kohima, the number of abortions in the state capital is 20 to 30 on a daily basis. He estimates that almost 10,950 abortions are conducted in Kohima every year. Dimapur will almost amount to hundred per day, he speculates.
According to Dr. Kezha Tsürho, 95 percent of abortions in Nagaland are a product of sexual promiscuity, which is compounded by the stigma of having a baby before marriage. He adds that 4 per cent of the abortion cases are mostly because parents have too many children and they cannot afford. Only one per cent of abortions in Nagaland emerge out of detecting genetic abnormality or rape cases, he estimates.
“Sexual promiscuity is extremely high in Nagaland,” says the Gynaecologist in Kohima, who has been practicing for over 30 years. However there are also many cases of abortions due to unplanned pregnancy among families. “Some particular religious denominations and religions do not allow the use of contraceptives, therefore many mothers are compelled to go for abortion,” the doctor states.
In India, 58 percent of maternal deaths occur out of unsafe abortions. While there are no records on maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions in Nagaland, many abortions in the past decades were conducted by local quacks which also led to maternal deaths.
Many MTPs are done by non-gynaecologists, using rudimentary and unsterilized equipments thereby putting at risk the life of the mother, informs Dr. Kezha who himself has come across such cases.
Unsafe abortions were very common a few decades ago but these have declined because we have Gynaecologists conducting MTPs across the State, viewed the Gynaecologist from Kohima, adding that abortions in Naga society are done in order to avoid shame.
“Twenty years back there were many cases of unsafe abortions in Kohima which led to maternal deaths, but these were never revealed because of shame in the family and community. Women had gone to local quacks, and many had died in their hands but the families did not want to reveal,” he states. He further notes that rape cases are not uncommon. In his 30 years of practice, the Gynaecologist has received more than 200 rape cases.
He revealed that from the 1980s till early 2000s, there were 5 to 6 abortions conducted daily. This number could go up to 18 and 19 cases on some days. “Right after celebrations and festive seasons such as the Hornbill Festival or other commemorations, there are plenty of abortions,” he added.
Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971, abortions can only be conducted by registered medical practitioners in ‘a hospital established or maintained by the Government’ or ‘a place for the time being approved by this Act by the Government’.
The Act only permits abortion up to 12 weeks to 20 weeks of pregnancy (requiring two medical practitioners) which can only be performed on opinion formed in good faith where the pregnancy might involve risk to the life of the mother or cause ‘grave injury to physical or mental health’ such as rape cases or if there is detection of the serious abnormalities physically or mentally to the child.
Only government hospitals and certain clinics which have applied for license can practice MTP but 99 percent of all abortions here are done in private hospitals. Vincent Belho, Branch Manager, FPAI Nagaland said that many of the private hospitals are not compiling their reports. He meanwhile stated: “what worries me is not the number of abortions but the failure to make people aware about contraceptives and safe sex.”
According to Dr. Kezha, Nagaland today does not witness many serious abortion complications as seen in the past because of sophisticated contraceptives as well as available medical care. However, this has not plugged the decline of abortions in the State.
He meanwhile points out that abortions do not decrease the trauma of the person. “When society does not give a damn about human life, why do we care about corruption? And this is happening sadly in a Christian State,” he laments.
The MTP Act is in the process of being amended, as recently announced by the Union Health Ministry. The amendments are expected to provide the right of abortion to all women irrespective of their marital status. It will further permit abortions upto the 24th week, and legalize abortion on reasons of failed contraception and unplanned pregnancy.