Imagine you are a broke college student, with nothing to your name but just dreams of being successful and a bright future after college. Then all of a sudden your world comes to a standstill all your dreams seem to crash into a heap of useless rubble the moment you spot two pink lines on your pregnancy test. Then there is your sweet boyfriend who runs for dear life the moment he catches wind of your pregnancy? Picture that situation? The despair, hurt, loneliness, helplessness all emotions come rushing into your mind you do not know what to do but the last thing you want to be is to be pregnant. What would you do as a young person? Would you consider backyard abortions?
A number of girls who find themselves in this terrible situation opt for what they see at that time as the easy way out, which is abortion. Unfortunately they also cannot access professional medical care due to the procedure being illegal in Zimbabwe as well as the high costs charged by private doctors who perform the procedure discreetly. This drives young ladies to seek unorthodox means of ending unwanted pregnancies; they are driven right into the back alleys, quack doctors, and self-proclaimed pharmacists and herbalists.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) unsafe abortion is “a procedure for terminating a pregnancy that is performed by a person lacking professional medical skills or in an environment not in conformity with minimal medical standards.” Unsafe abortions have led to the loss of many young lives as well as irreversible bodily harm. The main reasons that lead women to perform unsafe abortions are the stigma associated with unplanned pregnancies, lack of knowledge about safe abortion knowledge, laws that prohibit the practice, desire to further education, avoiding parental disappointment, and also as a way of maintaining social status.
Women should consider the consequences of unsafe abortion before putting their lives at risk. There are many ways of dealing with an unplanned pregnancy which we will discuss in our next article, but for now we will look at the danger and life threatening risks that come with unsafe abortions. Illegal abortions are usually carried out in unhygienic environments by unskilled people, this poses a danger to the woman as there is risk of an infection. They are also dangerous because they are usually performed using out dated methods like, coat hangers, herbal mixtures and ingestion of poisonous and caustic substances.
The complications include incomplete abortion which is the failure to remove, or expel all pregnancy tissue from the uterus. Then there is heavy bleeding which leads to loss of blood. The use of sharp objects like wires, knives and scissors during the procedure, can cause uterine perforation. Furthermore damage of internal organs like the genital tract which can also lead to infertility. A woman should seek medical assistance as soon as possible if they experience the following symptoms, abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal pain, infection, shock.
In order to prevent maternal deaths from abortion, women should be comprehensively educated about sex, be informed about the available pregnancy prevention methods, including emergency contraception as well as easy and affordable access to the family planning methods and services. Abortion laws should also be relaxed to cater for the desperate women.
By Jane Nkiwane