Abortion among girls under the age of 15 in Mumbai has risen by 144 percent over the last three years, recent data by BMC has shown. According to a report in The Times of India, there has also been a double-digit increase in the overall number of medical termination of pregnancies in 2015-16 which the BMC has said is because of an evolved reporting system.
In 2015, abortions among teenage girls had seen an alarming rise at 67 percent. Civic data accessed through RTI act by Chetan Kothari further showed that out of nearly 31,000 women who opted for medical termination of pregnancy, 1,600 were below the age of 19. The 2015-16 data from BMC showed that 34,790 women underwent medical or surgical abortion which is a 13% jump from last year’s figures. In 2014-15, number of women who underwent medical or surgical abortion stood at 30,742.
While health activists have shown worry at the rise in the numbers, BMC said it is a positive trend. Quoting a senior BMC official, The Times of India report said, “There is an obvious increase in women accessing safe abortions through registered centres and the registration system is better.”
Doctors and activists have always expressed worry at the idea of rise of abortions among teenagers. In 2013, doctors in Gurgaon said that there was almost a 50 percent rise in teen pregnancies over the past 4 to 5 years. Data collected by the UNFPA’s State of the World Population in 2008 suggested that teen pregnancy in India is high with 62 pregnant teens out of every 1,000 women. In comparison, 24 British teens get pregnant before their 19th birthday while the figure is 42 in the US.
The UN, in a report released in 2013, said that every year some four million teenage girls in India have babies. For every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, there were 76 adolescent births in India in 2010 compared to 49 worldwide and 53 in less developed regions.
Comparatively, in Pakistan there were 16 births for every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 and 24 in Sri Lanka.
The UN report suggested that approximately 70,000 teenage girls die every year from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, mostly in the developing world.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal in 2013, Frederika Meijer, UNFPA representative for India, said, “The whole issue of how you get pregnant is not really known to many young people so there is a low demand for contraceptives. In India, contraceptives used by young people is only nine percent of the overall use so a lot needs to be done about raising awareness, what contraceptives are, what family planning is and what is best for them.”
The rising numbers bring the focus back on imparting better sex education in schools and junior colleges. Activists voiced their concern and said that despite there being an increase in sexual activity among youngsters, it alone cannot contribute to more than doubling of abortion statistics. Health activists were quite alarmed at the staggering rise in the numbers.
Interestingly though, as teen pregnancy saw a sharp rise only in the under-15 category, MTPs among girls aged 15-19 registered a near 50 percent dip in 2015-16, “after showing a 47 percent increase in the year before.