What is Pratigya?
Pratigya is a network of individuals and organisations working towards protecting and advancing women’s rights and their access to safe abortion care in India. The campaign advocates with governments, organisations and media at the national and state levels on issues of women’s empowerment and women’s access to healthcare services.
Abortion has been legal in India since 47 years with the introduction of Medical termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in 1971. The Act was amended in 2003 to enable women’s accessibility to safe and legal abortion services. However, even after four decades of implementation of the MTP Act, women in India continue to face several social, cultural, institutional and operational challenges in accessing safe abortion services.
Access to safe and comprehensive abortion care has been impacted by the conflation in implementation of the MTP ACT and PCPNDT Act, which has stigmatised all abortions as sex selective. The decline in the child sex ratio revealed in Census 2011, resulted in over-zealous enforcement of the PCPNDT Act which made doctors hesitant to provide services and impacted the availability of Medical Abortion drugs.
Over the last few years, new issues have emerged which are likely to pose a threat to safe abortion access which include an increased number of women seeking judicial intervention/ authorisation for abortion, even though there is no such specification under the MTP Act, inconsistency in jurisprudence and procedural delays, inappropriate visuals and language used by the media while reporting abortion cases and the requirement on providers to mandatorily report cases of minors seeking abortion services under the POCSO Act. These factors have aggravated the apprehension and fear of increased scrutiny and engagement with law enforcement agencies among abortion providers. They have also made chemists and pharmacies reluctant to stock medical abortion drugs due to overregulation by food and drug administration officials, making abortion access difficult for women in need.
Pratigya Campaign for Gender Equality and Safe Abortion was launched in January 2013 when a group of interested stakeholders met to discuss and evolve a strategy to address the issue of conflation between sex selection and safe abortion. Recognising the changing landscape and context of abortion in India, the coalition members decided to expand the intent and mandate of the campaign to address the new threats to abortion.
The campaign is managed by the secretariat with guidance from the Campaign Advisory Group. The Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRHS India) is currently hosting the campaign secretariat and has been actively involved in advocating with governments and other stakeholders on safeguarding women’s right to safe abortion. The Campaign Advisory group (CAG) comprises of passionate individuals who are committed to the campaign goals and objectives. The CAG meets every quarter to review progress and prioritise campaign issues.
In its third phase of the Campaign, efforts will focus on:-
- The campaign will engage with providers to understand existing Medical Abortion (MA) service provision practices and evolve standardised and practical guidelines for MA use
- The campaign will work with Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and providers to understand providers’ concerns with respect to service delivery
- The campaign will map existing materials which address providers’ concerns and develop communication material outlining the frequently asked questions by providers
- The campaign will produce material that clarify the laws (MTP, PCPNDT and POCSO Act) for specific target audiences: providers; law enforcement authorities and investigating agencies
- The campaign will meet with organisations/litigants in ongoing cases in the Supreme Court of India to understand the prayers being sought from the courts with an aim to ensure that abortion rights are not compromised
- The campaign will work with Drug Controller of India (DCI) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India (GOI) to identify areas of variances between DCI approval and MTP Act like, weeks of gestation up to which MA combi pack can be used; documentation required to be maintained by chemists and providers for MA
- The campaign will advocate with the Drug Controller of India on the basis of Pratigya’s ‘Assessment of Availability of MA Drugs’ Study conducted in four states to ensure MA drugs are available to women in need and chemists are sensitized on Medical Method of Abortion
- The campaign will engage with MoHFW, GOI to advocate for amendment to MTP Rules to allow MBBS doctors to prescribe MA drugs and approval of MBBS doctors’ consultation room as a site for provision of MA, as an interim measure
- The campaign will identify and reach out to organisations/networks working on women’s health and rights issues
- The campaign will partner with at least two organisations working with young people and women’s group each to include abortion issues in their agenda
- The campaign will review existing media guidance available on abortion; adapt it if required; translate it into local language and disseminate it widely
- The campaign will hire a media/PR agency to support in disseminating statements/press releases and garner coverage for events organized by Pratigya; to facilitate engagement with media on abortion rights and ensure that abortion issues find place in media discourse on a regular basis