The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Licence leash on abortion clinics

The state health department will crack down on “illegal abortion clinics” mushrooming in the city and on its fringes, apart from carrying out surprise inspections at the licensed centres.

Making the announcement, director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said on Monday that inquiry teams from the health department will carry out surprise checks even at the approved clinics to monitor their licences, along with their medical equipment and the records of patients and doctors. The team will also ensure that patients are made to undergo pre-operative check-ups.

Reacting to The Telegraph report published on Monday about Pinky Mishra, a housewife from Barrackpore who reportedly underwent an abortion, only to learn that she was still pregnant and carrying not one, but twin babies, health services director Chatterjee said “the department has decided to step up its vigil against clinics that are not consistent in their work. Clinics that are not following legal norms stand to have their licences cancelled,” he added.

There are about 1,200-odd abortion clinics in and around Calcutta. A few hundred of them are completely illegal and clandestinely carry out abortions, without any kind of medical tests.

On Monday, Pinky and Shankar Mishra, who have been forced to retain the twins despite a meagre family income, met lawyers Arup and Mitali Dasgupta to discuss the modalities of the suit, which they filed at the consumer court on Friday.

“The couple is still in deep shock. They were at their wits’ end when a family friend brought them to me for a discussion on the case. I have never seen people in such dire straits caused by the negligent acts of a clinic,” said Arup Dasgupta.

The couple already has its hands full with two children. The twins are due in early January 2004. Daughter Vandana is seven and attends school, but her parents are already stretched raising the fees and other study expenditures. The son is four years old. “I will have to look for another job, as we will have additions in the family,” Shankar lamented. The couple also met doctors at a city hospital for a check-up and was told that the twins were doing well.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), too, has thrown its weight behind the shut-the-centre campaign against the mushrooming abortion clinics. “I had come across a case where the patient died soon after an abortion. Investigations later revealed that the woman was anaemic and the clinic did not carry out adequate pre-operative check-ups, which is a must,” said the IMA joint secretary (headquarters) R.D. Dubey. The government has been asked time and again to carry out surprise inspections at the abortion centres to monitor their operations, Dubey pointed out. “There are several hundred centres that are totally illegal and need to be shut down immediately,” he added.

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