India is proposing to register all women who are pregnant. This ostensibly is being done in order to curb the number of female fetuses being aborted and to help stop the number of female child infanticides.
Currently up to 500,000 female fetuses are being aborted yearly. The preference for boys has “[...]reduced the number of girls per 1,000 boys from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.” Link
Boys tend to be preferred because they carry on the family name. But families here also fear the financial burden of girls – when it comes time to pay huge traditional dowries to their daughters’ future husbands upon marriage. Link
Until there is a change in the way females are viewed societally, the attempt to limit abortions will only result in more female children suffering. As they are more likely to be killed at birth and less likely to receive the same care in feeding and medical attention and less likely to receive education.
There are many mitigating circumstances in the law that permit a woman to have an abortion. Rape is one, the inability of an unmarried woman to care for a child is another. Any pregnancy that causes mental anguish to a woman can be legally terminated even against medical advice. The minister ought to be looking at the root cause of female foeticide, not try to enter a personal domain. Link
Limiting abortion will increase the number of pregnancy related illnesses and very likely the maternal death rate as women carry more pregnancies without more access to medical care.
According to the UNICEF, India accounts for almost 20 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality cases. Link
Not only would the task of monitoring all pregnancies be almost impossible, there would need to be very careful monitoring of who is doing the monitoring. Miscarriages and still births could turn innocent women into suspected criminals, particularly if the fetus/child is female. As complications are quite common in areas where there is much poverty and little health care, this proposal could create yet another burden that the women must live under.
While it is a laudable goal to protect India from becoming a country with a population heavily skewed towards males, and the difficulties resulting from such skewed populations, it is important that any measures taken do not interfere with women’s reproductive rights, and adhere strongly to democratic principals.
The following article gives more in depth background to this issue.
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