By Maya Palit
Two recent events are rocking the boat on India’s laws related to abortion and sex determination.
On the one hand, an abortion racket conducted by a doctor in Sangli appears to have derailed any plans of amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. According to a report in Indian Express, the amendment was going to increase the time limit on abortions from 20 to 24 weeks — part of the logic was that medical practitioners have said that defects in the foetus are hard to pin down until 18 weeks of the pregnancy.
There have also been huge protests from doctors: 10,000 people associated with the medical profession participated in a march in Delhi organised by the Indian Medical Association. They demanded an Act to combat violence against doctors, and limits to the amount of compensation that doctors have to pay for medical negligence, or situations in which they have overlooked something they were supposed to do or harmed the patient in some other way.
But here is where it gets tricky: the protests also saw a revival of discussions about whether or not doctors should be convicted under the anti-sex determination law, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT). Part of the complaints are that seemingly minor ‘clerical errors’ like not filling in a form correctly can get you a jail term.
Acccording to Menaka Rao‘s report for Scroll.in, though, activists think this means really bad news: they worry that it will ‘dilute’ the law because the doctors tend to have political leverage, and that carefully maintained audits are indicators of fraud or other dodgy activities by doctors. The alternatives offered have veered towards tracking pregnant women, which is impractical on several counts and also indicts people who often don’t have a choice when it comes to abortions. So letting doctors get off easy doesn’t sound like the best idea just yet.