NEW DELHI :
There is an overwhelming shortage of abortion pills in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Delhi, potentially endangering women’s lives and safety, according to a study by an affiliate of Marie Stopes International (MSI).

The study involving 1,500 chemists showed shortage of medical abortion drugs in five out of the six states surveyed. The findings revealed abysmal stocking in Madhya Pradesh (6.5%), Punjab (1.0%), Tamil Nadu (2%), Haryana (2%), and Delhi (34%).

The only state that seemed to be doing better is Assam (69.6%), said the study conducted by Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRHSI).

MSI provides women and girls personalized contraception and safe abortion services in 37 countries.

The surveyors found that about 79% of chemists no longer stock medical abortion drugs to avoid legal issues and excessive documentation requirements. As many as 54.8% of chemists also report that these drugs are overregulated as compared to other schedule H drugs. Even in Assam, 58% chemists report over-regulation of contraceptive drugs.

“Medical Abortion (MA) has increasingly become the preferred method to terminate a pregnancy in India and the non-availability of drugs is threatening women’s access to safe abortion,” said V.S. Chandrashekar, chief executive officer, FRHSI.

“Evidence shows MA drugs are a safe and effective means to terminate a pregnancy, their non-availability can potentially reverse the gains made by the country in reducing unsafe abortions, maternal mortality and morbidity,” Chandrashekhar added.

The survey also revealed that emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) , or the so-called “morning after pills”, are not being stocked by chemists in the Tamil Nadu.

Only 3% of the chemists surveyed in the state reported stocking ECPs and 90% who do not stock the pills said they are banned in the state. ECPs are non-prescription drugs and are also stocked and distributed by ASHAs (accredited social health activist) under the National Family Planning Programme.

“In covid-19 pandemic times, many providers have started asking for covid-19 test before carrying out a surgical abortion, which can further increases the cost of service for women. MA in comparison is cheaper as it does not require a clinical set up,” said Debanjana Choudhuri, senior manager-partnerships, FRHSI.

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