Life and law going cheap, abortion pills without prescription

Anshu Seth

Ludhiana, Sept. 19 -- Days after HT's sting operation showed an MBBS doctor offering foetus sex determination tests at a farmhouse near Mandi Ahmedgarh, our team managed to buy pills for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) from three different retail counters in Ludhiana, without prescription and thus in gross violation of law. This appears to be the simple, two-step medical procedure involved in female foeticide, though it's not foolproof and can even lead to the mother's death.

This correspondent posing as a customer procured MTP kits (mifepristone and misoprostol tablets) without any prescription from Rajindra Brothers (wholesale and retail chemists) near Hero Bakery on Pakhowal Road, JP Medical Hall in Ishar Singh Nagar and GTB Medical Store in Shastri Nagar. These pills are easily available at various drug stores at Chandigarh Road, Tajpur Road, Ferozepur Road, Aggar Nagar, Model Town and various other localities of the city too.

Not only do the chemists sell these pills without mandatory prescription, they also give free advice about the usage, which when discussed with gynaecologists was found absolutely wrong and also contradictory to instructions on the on the MTP kits. The price of each kit bought varied from Rs. 300 to Rs. 500.


In violation of the Pre-Conception (PC), Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test (PNDT) and MTP Acts, a racket in Ludhiana, Sangrur, Barnala and adjoining districts - comprised of midwives, hospital officials, some quacks, lab owners and even doctors - first singles out the pregnant women who already have one or two daughters and are visiting gynaecologists with another pregnancy.

Thereafter, the hospital PROs, midwives or paramedical staff follow these pregnant women and their families, giving them options for sex determination tests.

Those who agree are sent to the laboratory owners, acting as mediators, and the rate are fixed, as was done with the HT correspondent when she acted as a decoy patient in the recent sting operation.

If the test is "negative" (it's a female foetus), the women are sent to BAMS doctors or gynaecologists, who administer MTP pills to the women irrespective of the pregnancy period. Davinder Singh, the owner of Gurnoor Laboratory in Himmat Singh Nagar, had told this correspondent, while referring us to a doctor in Ahmednagar for sex determination, that he would tell us about an expert for abortion if the foetus was female.


The success rate of an MTP kit is 90-92%, and it is mandatory to administer it 49-63 days of pregnancy. But doctors involved in the foeticide racket administer the pills even in the second trimester, and in some cases doctors ask the women to buy MTP kits from chemists and consume the pills on their own. As a result, these women end up at the doors of the gynaecologists with multiple problems.

The failure of pregnancy termination through these pills subjects newborns to risk of moebius syndrome (multiple malformations). Gynaecologists from across the state are getting cases of "incomplete termination of pregnancy".

Citing a horrific example, local gynaecologist Dr Ginny Gupta said, "A woman came to me with a five-month pregnancy. She had consumed MTP pills four times on the advice given by an Asha worker (employed by the health department) and the worker told her she was no longer pregnant. But it was only after feeling the movement of the child in the womb that the woman realised that had she never had an abortion. Civil hospital authorities in Ludhiana refused to help her, and if she keeps the child it may have malformations or some neurological disorder."

Some gynae experts from Ludhiana had brought the issue to the knowledge of civil surgeon Dr Subhash Batta in a meeting convened last month, apparently to no avail. Dr Batta was was not available for comment.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.