Illegal abortions still high in SA

ABO-ARTICLEA 17-year old girl died on Thursday at Frere hospital in East London after nurses tried to remove a foetus from her womb. The girl had had a blotched termination of pregnancy after using a ‘backstreet’ abortion clinic.

Nurse Lefa, who works at the Women’s clinic and gynaecology unit, expressed how the girl was found. “She came to us at 6 o’ clock in the morning trying to hide a blotch of blood on her pants which was getting worse,” said Lefa. “When we placed her on a bed, she fainted.

Lefa said that the girl had lost a lot of blood because of a sceptic wound in her uterus which occurred from an infection. It was reported that she was given abortion inducing pills and thereafter, attempted to pull the foetus on her own the night before she went to the clinic.

It is unfortunate that the girl Lefa and her staff assisted is not the only one who has died due to unsafe pregnancy terminations. Since South Africa legalised abortion 1996 with the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion-related deaths have decreased by 90%. However, the Act has not been implemented to decrease or remove the presence and use of illegal abortionists.

Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini said, “Where abortion is permitted on broad legal grounds, it is generally safe and where it is highly restricted, it is typically safe.” Minister Dlamini was addressing delegates in Boksburg at an Ipas conference.

A study in 2005 looked at women’s reasons for going to illegal providers, which included not knowing where to access safe or free abortions, stigma from their communities, judgemental staff and concerns over confidentiality and cost. Only about 53% of the public health facilities to provide safe abortions are operational currently.

Most state-funded hospitals offer abortions in less than 13 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. Between 13-20 weeks (3 to 5 months) a woman may have an abortion under certain conditions where: her physical, mental health is at stake, her baby may have physical or mental abnormalities and if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest; or when she is of the opinion that her economic or social situation is enough to terminate the pregnancy.

Several females from the ages of 12 to 40 terminate their pregnancies, some falling victim to the “same day, pain-free, quick” street post abortionists. These illegal operations hand out medical abortion pills indiscriminately, placing second-trimester women at a risk of death. Most botched abortions include severe bleeding, uterine damage, tearing of the cervix, severe damage to the genitals and abdomen, internal infection of the abdomen and blood poisoning.

By Siphosethu Jim


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