THERE HAS been a slow but steady rise in the cases of teenager’s girls opting for Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP). While it is difficult to compute the exact number, on an average more than 1,500 teenage girls are going in for abortion every month in Delhi alone.
According to the figures available, more than 500 qualified gynecologists in Delhi handle at least 2-3 abortions of teenage pregnancies in one month. “Roughly, in one month I get some 3-7 cases of teenage girls seeking abortion,” said Dr Ranjana Tyagi, a leading gynecologist practicing at Nehru Place in South Delhi. “I handle 2-3 cases in one month,” said Dr Raj Bokadia, a gynaecologist at Moolchand Hospital. On the other hand, Dr Alka Dhal who is also a leading gynecologist in South Delhi disclosed she gets 1-2 cases of teenage pregnant girls seeking abortion.
“Virtually all the gynecologists in Delhi, either in Government or private practice, handle abortion cases. Besides gynecologists, MBBS degree holders, trainee gynecology students and registered medical practitioners (RMPs) also perform abortions. Then, you have Ayurveda and Unani doctors who do abortions. To top it all, there are quacks who add to the list,” said Dr Tyagi, who has been now practicing for 15 years.
Urvashi Guha, Project Executive in Parivar Seva Sanathan, Marie Stopes, admitted that the number of teenage pregnant girls going in for abortion has seen a slow and steady increase. Declining to give the exact number, she revealed that 4.4 percent of the total number of abortion cases that the three Marie Stopes clinics in Delhi handled in the Jan-Oct 1994 period were of girls under 21, most of them being teenage girls.
Contrary to the stereotype notion that only girls from the very elite or the very lower class go in for abortion, there are indications that such cases come from all classes. “There is no class distinction,” said Dr Bokadia. However, the teenage girls who seek abortion at an early stage of pregnancy come from the upper class. “Usually, the middle-class and the lower-class girls come at a later stage as they are not unable to confide their feelings nor are they aware of the options,” Dr Tyagi explained.
Irrespective of classes, the majority of teenage girls become pregnant out of sheer ignorance. “Ignorance about contraceptives, dependence on the males to take precaution, lack of attention from parents and changing social values are some of the main reasons behind unwanted teenage pregnancies, argued Dr Alka Dhal.
The common point that emerged out of the views the doctors gave to The Pioneer is the fact that with changing social values and times, teenagers are more prone to take risks and indulge in (mis) adventures. Often, there is lack of guidance from either the parents or the teachers.
Under the existing system of sex education, school goers are only lectured on the increasing population and briefed about the reproductive system. Many school principals are extremely reluctant to have sex education as a part of their curriculum. “We try to hold various workshops in Delhi schools. While the school principals are open to holding the workshops, when it come to implementation they are very reluctant,” said Ms Guha.
The result is that when Parivar Seva Sansthan conducted a workshop at Government Model School in Indraprasth estate recently, a 14-year-old girl wanted to know from one counselor the chances of her getting pregnant as she had touched a boy’s hand the week before.
“Even the girls from elite sections are only partly aware. For example, some of them do take pills to avoid pregnancy, but they do not realize that it has to be taken on a regular basis,” said Dr Tyagi.
The fact that even the college going students know little about sex can be gauged from the fact that calls received by the now defunct Sparsh- India’s first hot-line service for sexual problems-had a large number of students calling up to get basic information about the body and its functions.
Not surprisingly, one-third of the calls were from the people in the 15-29 age group.
Only the apathetic school managements are not to be blamed for this ignorance as even Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh has rejected the need for sex education in schools.
By Ketan Tanna