WINDHOEK – A New Era investigation has revealed that despite being illegal, abortion is rife in Namibia with secret sellers of abortion pills raking in huge revenues.
Expectant women under the age of 35 form the bigger chunk of the thriving illegal abortion ‘industry’.
An undercover New Era investigation revealed that one tablet costs between N$250 to N$300 depending on who the supplier is.
An additional N$50 for delivery is required in some instances. And, depending on how far advanced the pregnancy is, more tablets may be required to terminate the pregnancy.
This reporter pretended to be four weeks pregnant and according to a Windhoek supplier this meant three tablets were needed to terminate the pregnancy. This meant paying a minimum of N$750 for the three pills, or N$800 if delivery was included.
“Get it (abortion done) before two months. The earlier you do it the better because there is less bleeding,” the unsuspecting supplier told this reporter.
A medical doctor who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Katutura hospital, Dr Albertina Amupala, told New Era yesterday that the past three months recorded 208 spontaneous miscarriages at the hospital. These exclude medical abortions.
Although the term ‘spontaneous miscarriage’ refers to the sudden loss of a foetus, Amupala explained that many of the cases are actually induced abortions.
She could however not provide specific statistics, explaining that cases of genuine miscarriages and induced abortions are treated as one at the hospital.
“It (abortion) is quite serious and it is very common. We see quite a lot of ‘gynae’ patients. Most of the patients who come with gynaecological problems have miscarriages compared to other gynaecological problems,” commented Amupala.
She said medical personnel who attend to these cases do not really investigate as their concern is to save the patient’s life. “But we suspect that most of them are due to self-induction,” Amupala added.
In most cases, medical personnel discover tablets, sticks and clothes in the vagina and womb of expectant women who report to the hospital with complaints of miscarriages, explained Amupala.
“There are quite a number of patients with tablets and sticks inserted in their vagina. When a patient comes we just treat them as doctors would. Even if we find whatever it is that we find there. We take it from there and just treat the problem and help the patient.
“We only fill out the police case (form) but on our files but we don’t write that it is criminal abortion,” Amupala explained.
Girls as young as 14 years old are reportedly amongst those who report to the hospital with such complaints. Women older than 35 sometimes go to the hospital with complaints of miscarriages, but Amupala said they are “few”.
Meanwhile, a pharmacist who did not want to be named said in an interview with New Era yesterday that there are people who take advantage of expectant women who opt for illegal abortions.
The pharmacist said the suppliers find means to get hold of the ‘cytotec’ tablet which is used as an anti-inflammatory. He said the tablet is sold on prescription in pharmacies but suppliers find ways to get hold of the tablets which they sell to their desperate clients.
“It’s really bad how they make money out of these tablets. They do that knowing the women are in dire need and they charge high prices for this,” said the pharmacist.
Amupala said illegal abortion is dangerous because the risk of infection to the womb is very high.
“This is so especially due to the fact that they use foreign bodies (sticks) and sometimes insert (the tablets or sticks) with their fingers which are dirty and end up introducing infections, which can get to the womb and the tubes and make the womb rotten,” explained Amupala.
In worse cases, abortion can lead to sceptic shock which leads to death, said Amupala. Sceptic shock is when the infection goes into the blood, she explained.
In other cases, the womb would have to be removed because it is too infected, added Amupala. “You can bleed to death especially those who end up seeking help late,” said Amupala, referring to the consequences of abortion.
In cases where expectant women insert sticks in their vagina they may end up with holes in their womb. In other cases, infertility may occur as a result of scars in the womb, she added.
Asked why women opt to illegally terminate a pregnancy, Amupala said: “Most of the time it’s just social as in they cannot afford to take care of the baby. And in certain instances it is because women were neglected by their partners and a lack of family support.”
Courtesy The New Era