`Abortion is the right of women if carried out under MTP Act`

Maharashtra Health Minister Suresh Shetty told the Legislative Council that abortion is the "right of women".

Mumbai: Maharashtra Health Minister Suresh Shetty on Thursday told the Legislative Council that abortion is the "right of women" provided it is exercised as per the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

Participating in the debate over illegal foeticides in the wake of a spate of such cases from Beed district in recent past, the minister said, "abortion is the right of women only if the procedure is carried out as per the norms laid down in the MTP Act, 1971".

As per the MTP Act, the length of the pregnancy must not exceed twenty weeks in order to qualify for an abortion.

The debate was proposed by Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Vinod Tawade and initiated by Dr Neelam Gorhe of Shiv Sena.

Shetty had on Tuesday said that the state government will consider bringing female foeticide within the bracket of Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

On steps being taken by the state government in curbing the illegal practices, the health minister said, "the registrations of doctors who indulged in illegal female foeticide have been suspended and the government will put a board outside their clinics about their wrong doings. We will take the cases of female foeticide in Beed to logical end".

Shetty said the state government has rewarded ten whistle-blowers for exposing the illegal abortion practices.

"We rewarded each one of them of Rs 25,000 for sharing information with us (on female foeticide)," he said.

Shetty told the House that the Home Minister R R Patil has already appointed Ujjwal Nikam and Ujjwala Pawar as public prosecutors to fight the Beed abortion cases.

However, NCP legislator Vidya Chavan objected to the
announcement saying some women organisations have objected to the appointment of Nikam as the government lawyer, to which Shetty said since it is an administrative decision and could not be allowed to be interfered.

"We have given rights to collectors and police officers to appoint best lawyers to fight the case. In every district, we will sensitise police officers. Earlier, we had undertaken the programme to sensitise revenue officers," he added.