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Indian police investigate after 19 female fetuses found in plastic bags near clinic

Authorities in India have uncovered 19 aborted female fetuses near a clinic in a suspected sex-selective abortion racket. Police were initially probing the death of a woman who was allegedly pressured into an abortion.

The 19 aborted female fetuses were found dumped in plastic bags near a sewer in India's western state of Maharashtra, police said on Monday.

The fetuses were recovered near the private clinic of a homeopath who was not licensed to terminate pregnancies. The doctor is currently on the run from authorities, police said.

The clinic, located in a village in the Sangali district near the border with Karnataka state, allegedly offered illegal sex-determination tests along with abortions.

Police uncovered the female fetuses while investigating the death of a 26-year-old woman who died after receiving an abortion at the clinic.

"We found the fetuses while we were probing the death of the woman at the hospital during an illegal abortion," the area's deputy police chief, Krishna Kant Upadhyay, told news agency DPA via telephone. Although abortions are legal in India, prenatal sex tests are not.

The deceased woman's husband has also been arrested for allegedly pressuring her into having a sex-selective abortion, Dattatray Shinde, police superintendent of the Sangali district, told news agency AFP.

Local authorities said they teamed up with health officials to launch an investigation into what they suspect is an inter-state operation offering abortions of female fetuses.

Indien Anand Untersuchung Schwangere Frau (Getty Images/AFP/D. Sarkar)

It is illegal for doctors in India to carry out sex-determination tests on fetuses

An ongoing problem

Indian laws ban doctors and health workers from sharing the sex of a fetus with the parents or carrying out sex-determination tests. The policy is designed to stop unborn girls from being aborted by parents who want to have a boy.

Despite dowries being illegal in India, the Indian wedding custom still remains the norm, meaning that girls are often seen as a huge cost with very little return. On the other hand, boys are viewed as breadwinners who will look after their parents in their old age.

India's child sex ratio is 919 females per 1,000 males, according to government statistics.

In Sangali, where the fetuses were found, there were just 867 girls per 1,000 boys, the latest figures from the 2011 census show.

The global average, which is also skewed in boys' favor, partly due to sex-selective practices in countries like India and China, is commonly put at roughly 107 boys born to every 100 girls.

"The incident is heinous and condemnable," Maharashtra's women and child welfare minister, Pankaja Munde, said. "The issue of saving daughters needs support from parents as well. Parents should be motivated to support their children irrespective of their child's gender."

rs/msh  (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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