The political economy of abortion in India: Cost and expenditure patterns

Authors : Duggal, Ravi

Published Year: 2004

Reproductive Health Matters, 12(24), November 2004 (Supplement) pp.130–137

 Access to abortion services is not difficult in India, even in remote areas. Providers of abortion range from traditional birth attendants to auxiliary nurse midwives and pharmacists, unqualified and qualified private doctors, to gynaecologists. Despite a well-defined law, there is a lack of regulation of abortion services or providers, and the cost to women is determined by supply side economics. The state is not a leading provider of abortions; services remain predominantly in the private sector. Abortions in the public sector are free only if the woman accepts some form of contraception; other fees may also be charged. The cost of abortion varies considerably, depending on the number of weeks of pregnancy, the woman’s marital status, the method used, type of anaesthesia, whether it is a sex-selective abortion, whether diagnostic tests are carried out, whether the provider is registered and whether hospitalisation is required. A review of existing studies indicates that abortions cost a substantial amount – first trimester abortion averages Rs.500–1000 and second trimester abortion Rs.2000–3000. Given the number of unqualified providers and with 15-20% of maternal deaths due to unsafe bortions, the costs of unsafe abortions must also be counted. It is imperative for the state to regulate the abortion economy in India, both to rationalise costs and assure safe abortions for women.

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