80 percent abortion in India through medicines: Lancet

Of the total 48.1 million pregnancies in 2015, about half were unintended

GN Bureau | December 12, 2017


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 Three in four abortions in India are through drugs from chemists and informal vendors rather than from health facilities, said a report in The Lancet.

An estimated 15.6 million abortions were performed in the country in 2015, reports The Lancet in its latest released paper on ‘Incidence of abortion and unintended pregnancies in India’.
 
Measuring the national incidence of abortion in India, the study shows 81 percent abortions were through medication – close to three in four abortions are through drugs from chemists and informal vendors, rather than from health facilities. 
 
Fourteen percent were performed surgically in health facilities. The remaining five percent abortions were performed outside of health facilities using other, typically unsafe methods.
 
The study conducted by International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, Population Council, New Delhi and Guttmacher Institute, New York also estimated the incidence of unintended pregnancy in India and found that out of the total 48.1 million pregnancies in 2015, about half were unintended—meaning they were wanted later or not at all.
 
The estimated unintended pregnancy rate was 70 per 1,000 women aged 15–49 in 2015, which is similar to the rates in neighbouring Bangladesh (67) and Nepal (68), and much lower than the rate in Pakistan (93).
 
“Although abortion has been legal under a broad range of criteria in India since 1971, we have never had a reliable estimate of the number occurring until now,” says Dr. Chander Shekhar, professor in the department of fertility studies at IIPS and co–principal investigator of the study. “This new evidence provides policymakers with information that is essential for designing and implementing effective reproductive health care programs.”
 
Researchers did a large scale survey in public and private health facilities of six states—Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh—where close to half of Indian women of reproductive age live.
 
The public sector—which is the main source of health care for rural and poor women—accounts for only one-quarter of facility-based abortion provision, in part because many public facilities do not offer abortion services.
 
“Women in India face considerable challenges trying to obtain abortion care, including the limited availability of abortion services in public health facilities,” says Dr. Susheela Singh,vice president for international research at the Guttmacher Institute and co–principal investigator of the study. “Our findings suggest that a shortage of trained staff and inadequate supplies and equipment are the primary reasons many public facilities don’t provide abortion care.”
 

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