Illegal abortion horror

Sixteen-year-old Nyasha (not her real name) is one of the lucky few who have survived an illegal abortion by one of the country’s self-appointed practitioners. “When my aunt discovered that I was pregnant, she insisted on an abortion because I was going to bring shame on the family. My aunt accompanied me to a place in Mbare and I was introduced to nyamukuta (midwife) who administered the abortion,” said Nyasha.

Research shows that, given time, many women will choose to keep their baby.
Research shows that, given time, many women will choose to keep their baby.

The use of a knitting needle to administer the procedure resulted in the young woman’s intestines being perforated.

“My intestines were perforated and an infection developed. I have never fully recovered. It was a backyard abortion and was carried out under the cover of darkness. The place was filthy and I guess the instruments were used on many people.”

High fees

Some medical practitioners in the country are willing to administer abortions for an extortionate fee, but the majority of women cannot afford it, so they seek help elsewhere. High density suburbs are awash with illegal abortion clinics, many of which are run from people’s homes. In Western Triangle in the Highfields, woman can be seen loitering outside one such venue, waiting to make a booking. Many come to collect concoctions prepared by the ‘midwives’ that the women can take at home.

With no standard of cleanliness or legal monitoring of these institutions, many women die from infections. One woman lost her daughter because an unclean implement was used to administer her abortion.

“We only realised it after the post mortem. The doctor said she had died because she developed complications after the abortion. We never knew that she was pregnant, let alone that she had an abortion,” she said.

‘Midwives’ who are responsible for backstreet abortions have been heavily criticised for taking patients who are classified as children, without parental consent. A woman who performs abortions from her home, explained the different methods that she employs.

“Sometimes we try to break the amniotic sac in the womb with a sharp object like a wire, or we pump traditional concoctions such as plant poison, chilli pepper or any other substance into the body of the woman. In some cases we give the woman drugs known to result in miscarriage or uterine contraction,” she said.

Unsafe methods

Harare-based doctor, Mlungisi Ndebele, said all the methods used in these abortions were not safe.

“Abortion is illegal, except in extreme cases. These methods are not encouraged as they cause infections.Putting poisonous substances in the body can cause toxic shock and death,” he said.

Statistics show that in 2010, 79% of abortions worldwide were carried out in developing countries. More than 200 000 women died as a result of abortions in these countries.

A police officer, stationed at Machipisa police station, said cases of illegal abortions were on the rise in the area.

“We are witnessing an influx of these cases almost every month. We urge people to desist from these acts as it is illegal and dangerous. People who have information about where these abortions are taking place should assist the police,” said the officer who requested anonymity.

Local Pastor Brighton Dengu of Evangelical Fellowship Church said abortion was not only a crime, but a sin to God.

“Abortion is the same as murder and it is a gross sin. Police know that these things are happening and they should follow up their leads and arrest the perpetrators.”

Temporary solution

Research has shown that abortion is just a temporary solution that often results in feelings of guilt and loneliness.

A nurse listens to the heartbeat of a baby in the womb.
A nurse listens to the heartbeat of a baby in the womb.

A woman, who identified herself as Mai Charity, had an abortion in 1996 and said that she wrestled with a feeling of worthlessness.

“Every time I hear a person saying I was born in 1996, I am reminded of my child. The feelings of ‘what if?’ still haunt me. I have tried to commit suicide several times because the pain and the memory is too much. I was a young girl, naïve and vulnerable, and the father of my child encouraged me to abort. After that he just dumped me,” she said.

She urged to police to act decisively on cases of backstreet abortion that are brought to their attention in order to give women, particularly young people, the opportunity to consider their decision.

Post published in: News
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