GE Healthcare to address use of ultrasound machine in India for sex-selective abortions

V. Raja, CEO of GE Healthcare South Asia, at a seminar that concluded Saturday said while the company has been "compliant as far as the law is concerned," it is "willing to do more and to look at suggestions" to reduce use of its ultrasound machine for sex-selective abortions, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (Gupta, AFP/Yahoo! News, 9/29).

According to a UNICEF report released in December 2006, about 7,000 fewer girls than expected are born daily in India, and about 10 million fewer girls than expected were born in the past 20 years. The most recent Indian census figures found that the gender ratio decreased from 947 girls per 1,000 boys to 927 girls per 1,000 boys from 1991 to 2001.

The country in 1994 approved the Prenatal Determination Act, which bans the use of technology, such as ultrasounds and sonograms, for the purpose of sex-selective abortion. The law also bans advertisements for prenatal sex determination, as well as the practice of preconception sex selection. More than 400 cases have been filed under the law, resulting in only two convictions. Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury in July announced that the Indian government is planning to create a national registry of all pregnancies and abortions performed in the country in an effort to curb sex-selective abortions and infant mortality (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/23).

All clinics that have an ultrasound machine are required to register with the government and provide an affidavit saying they will not perform sex-selective abortions. GE, the leading seller of ultrasound machines in the country, has educated its sales force about the issue, requires its customers to sign a GE affidavit saying they will not use the machines for sex selection and conducts periodic audits, company executives said (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 4/18). Raja said that the company is not a regulatory authority and could not be held responsible for ensuring the law was being followed. However, he added that the company "will certainly look into voluntarily reporting people buying more than one machine and carry out more awareness programs against" the practice.

Some advocates have said that GE has been instrumental in popularizing low-cost, mobile machines, which have been transported to rural villages in the country, adding that the availability of low-cost ultrasounds has coincided with an increase in sex-selective abortions in India. However, some advocates at the seminar said it was an important first that an ultrasound manufacturer had addressed their concerns (AFP/Yahoo! News, 9/29).


Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at the The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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