Despite curbs, sex determination of foetus still on

Ultra Sound Scan

Armed with a series of procedures which define the operations of pre-natal scanning centres across the state, the government believed it had created an airtight system to curb the gender-determination of foetuses.

On Tuesday, a scanning centre in Chikkballapur district proved them wrong.

Tipped off that a scanning centre had illegally revealed the sex of a fetus to a couple, health officials from the state’s Decoy Operations team rushed to the district yesterday (Tuesday) morning to conduct a surprise raid against the centre – located in a prominent hospital in Chintamani.

According to Dr Prabhu Deve Gowda, Deputy Director of the state’s Decoy Operations Team of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques section (PC&PNDT), a couple claiming to be from Ayyappa Nagar in Bengaluru, had approached Dr Rekha (name changed), an obstetrician at the Sir CV Raman Nagar General Hospital on June 5, to request for an abortion because a sonogram report had revealed that the wife was carrying a female foetus.

When the doctor demanded to know why, the husband, an advocate, said that he and his wife already had two daughters and did not want a third. “Their answer was shocking,” said Dr Rekha, adding that she stalled the couple while she tipped off the Department of Health and Family Welfare.

By the time she returned to the examining room, however, the couple had fled, having suspected that something was amiss. “They hadn’t even filed an outpatient slip, so we initially did not know their identities,” said Dr Gowda.

Chikkballapur district is known for unusually high abortion rates. According to a study conducted by the Karnataka State Commission for Women, 735 abortions were registered in the district over a period of one-and-a-half years.

Officially, an application for abortion is strictly scrutinized as are requests for an ultrasound sonogram.

Dr Gowda explained that all scanning centres in Karnataka must adhere to government procedures before a scan is authorised. First, a ‘Form F’, which requires the obstetric history of patients, with a number of children and the sex of each child, has to be filled out online. The information is then uploaded to a central database maintained by the government. Scanning centre staff are prohibited from disclosing the sex of the fetus to the patient, to relatives, to referring doctor, or to anyone else.

At the offending centre, however, Dr Gowda and his staff found that the doctor-in-charge of the centre had not uploaded the form on the government’s Balika software system.

“He denied all charges of wrongdoing, claiming that he had not uploaded the form because the server was down,” explained Akhila, legal counsel for PC & PDNT.

She added that the doctor had instead recorded all required details in a paper version of the form, which insulated him from criminal charges.

By examining other scanning records at the centre, Dr Gowda’s team will trace the couple. “The government will monitor them on a daily basis until the child is born,” he said.

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