NEW DELHI: The Proposed MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) Amendment Act, 2014, which seeks to allow AYUSH—Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani,Siddha, and Homeopathy-- practitioners to perform abortions on pregnant women, just as the proper medical practitioners do, has already found a staunch critic in the form IMA (Indian Medical Association), which represents 2.5 lakh allopathic practitioners.

It has said that allowing this proposal could put the lives of many of the women under severe health risk.

Union Health Minister J P Nadda recently informed the Parliament that expanding the provider base with ‘strict conditionalities’ would ensure safe abortions in places where these facilities are scant.

He said that the AYUSH practitioners will be given a year’s training and certification which would be specified in the rules, which will allow them to perform the procedures.

It has been noticed that proposed amendments in the MTP, 1971, Act are informed by the 2012 Population Council report on pregnancy and abortion status conducted in three states, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh , and Odisha.

Among its recommendations it included “Increase the limit of abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks,” and to “increasing the base of legal MTP providers by including medical practitioners with a Bachelor’s degree in Unani, Ayurveda or Homeopathy. Nurses with a three and half year’s degree and registered with the Nursing Council of India, could also be included in the base of legal providers”.

Both of the recommendations accepted in the amendments have drawn the ire of the IMA.

“The bill proposes to replace the term “registered medical practitioners” in Section 2(d) of the MTP Act, 1971, by the term “Registered health care providers” thus including vaids, hakims, Siddha practitioners, homeopaths as well as nurses and ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwives) under the preview of the act,” writes K K Agarwal , Editor-in-Chief, Indian Journal of Clinical Practice.

He further raised many concerns with the proposed amendments, which may be more regressive, and may prove fatal to mother mortality. A concern for an increase in sex-based abortions has also been raised.

“Allowing abortion up to 24 weeks in the hand of nonqualified healthcare providers will lead to more sex selective abortions. The move to increase the MTP weeks from 20-24 weeks is also a matter of concern, in fact any MTP after 12 weeks should have been allowed only by select recognized centers and under strict regulation to check selective sex selection abortions,” he writes in a report published in November last year of IJCP.

Besides the usual health factors raised by the experts on the issue, there are legal barriers as well which the Central Government seems to have overlooked in tending to its affinity towards ancient Indian wisdom.

According to an interpretation by the Supreme Court in 1996, between Poonam Verma Vs. Ashwin Patel and Others , it had observed that “A person who does not have knowledge of a particular System of Medicine but practices in that System is a quack and a mere pretender to medical knowledge or skill, or to put it differently, a charlatan”.

There have been many concern in the west as well regarding the legitimacy of ayurvedic medicines and procedure, with The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of US advising the patients to use it with caution after high amount of lead and arsenic found in its samples.