07/14/2007, 00.00
INDIA
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The Indian Church “sceptical” of the birth register

by Nirmala Carvalho
The draft law, which aims to put an end to abortions of female foetuses, is simply another form of birth control. In the last 20 years more than 10 million female foetuses have been aborted.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “I fear this may be an indirect way to control the population of the country and also give the government the necessary community and religious-based statistics of the birth –rate of the different communities in India”. Msgr. Bernard Moras, Chairman of the CBCI Health Care Commission, Archbishop Bernard Moras, was rather sceptical with regards to the proposal of Women and Child Welfare Minister Renuka Chowdhury, according to which pregnant women will register with the Government and will be required to ask its permission to carry out an abortion.

The minister maintains that the law will help put an end to the continuous increase in female foeticide and abortions and underlines that it will only be applied in “specific circumstances”, even though it remains unclear what those circumstances are. In India selective abortion has been prohibited by law since 1994: despite this the last national census shows India has only 927 females for every 1,000 males and that the number of males is growing.

The Indian Catholic Church fears this may be yet another attempt to impose “birth control”, moreover by legalizing abortion, a practice which is deemed “immoral” and “against life”. Msgr. Moras further underlines that in cases of ‘illegal’ or illegitimate’ pregnancies, do you think that these women will come forward to register their pregnancies.  These women who have illegal pregnancies are who are already in distress- will be forced to seek medical assistance from ‘quacks’, thus gravely endangering their lives. The Catholic Church has community centres in the most remote and rural areas and our Religious Sisters, who are trained paramedics, follow up the pregnancy and the live birth ratio in these arrears is very high.  Importantly, these community centres are health centres, where the poor of every caste and creed are treated with dignity and absolutely so distinction is made on bases of faith and community.

Michelle Fonseca, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, at Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Muncipal General Hospital (LTMG Hospital) widely known as Sion Hospital, instead welcomed this proposal of the Health Ministry: Speaking to AsiaNews Dr. Fonseca noted that “mandating registration of pregnancies will be practical and rational approach to various problems related to pregnancy and delivery”. “In Sion Hospital, every day we have nearly 40 Deliveries (if not more) and many women admitted are ‘in the last stages of pregnancy where the life of both mother and child is in a precarious stage.  Daily we see, many high-risk pregnancy’s with serious complications like ruptured uterus, bleeding  etc…..so from my point of view. Registration will ensure the basics supplements of iron, calcium, haematinics and primary heath care so vital for the pregnant woman. Importantly, given the practise of female foeticide in the county, with the preference for the male child, the registration we hope should curtail this social evil”

A study last year by the British medical journal The Lancet said that India may have lost 10 million unborn girls in the past 20 years, but Indian experts have challenged the number, saying that it is likely closer to 5 million

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