Illegal abortion in Nigeria: The cringing reality
by Rachel Ogbu
Abortion in Nigeria is illegal on more grounds than it is legal yet the number of women who perform the procedure every year is significant. More shocking are the numbers who die from having an abortion.
Unless the life of the woman will be at risk if she went on to give birth, abortion is a taboo in the country, thus people seek secret and illegal hideouts to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and the operation cannot be described as a medical one… far from it.
Statistics show that 10,000 women die every year in Nigeria from unsafe abortions, carried out by untrained people in unsanitary conditions. This can be levelled down to 27 deaths a day.
More than 456,000 unsafe abortions are done in Nigeria every year; the US Guttmacher Institute estimates.
And the methods are repulsive, one can only imagine how desperate the women who went through this torture were. Techniques include trying to break the amniotic sack inside the womb with a sharp stick. This causes infection and in extreme cases the tissue inside the body can start to pack up.
Gynaecologist Ejike Oji, of Ipas, an international organisation working to secure reproductive rights for women said: “They’re pulling out intestines.” He also describes another method where they pump a toxic mixture by grinding ginger, alligator pepper, local chalk and native alum together and apply it into the woman’s private part.
“The women go into toxic shock and die,” Oji said.
At times it is said that some healers use the sharpened edge of Bahaman grass to do the work. Of course they are not specialists or professional medical practitioners. A lot of Nigerians seeking abortions turn to traditional healers and spiritualists to get the work done.
Esther Megide, a 26-year-old graduate who works in one of Nigeria’s fastest growing banks recounted her life ordeal. “I am a graduate and a banker, but I’m afraid of getting married because I know that medically, I cannot bear children. I lost my womb at 15. I had an unsafe abortion which almost took my life but for God’s intervention I survived,” she said
John was in tears as she told the story of how she lost her womb as a teenager. Then a Junior Secondary School pupil, she was impregnated by a neighbour who was a student in one of the federal polytechnics in the country. “Confused and afraid of the consequence of my action, both I and my boyfriend approached a registered clinic in Ikeja, Lagos State capital, to get rid of the unwanted baby,” she said. But, unfortunately, her small intestine was perforated in the process. Sensing that she might die from chronic infection, the doctor referred her to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where she got a proper clean-up. “Though the operation was successful, the doctors told my parents that I might not be able to become pregnant again because the infection had affected my womb,’’ she said.
Sunday on the other hand didn’t survive the procedure. She died during an illegal abortion procured in Osogbo, Osun Stateh. Fifty-one-year-old Julius Olufemi is standing trial at a magistrate’s court in Osogbo for allegedly performing the illegal abortion at about 1am on June 10.
-About 750,000 women have abortions every year
-60% of those are “unsafe”
-20% are done by a traditional healer or the woman herself
-20% of pregnancies in Nigeria are unplanned
-50% of those end in abortion
-Women in the mostly Christian south as likely to experience unwanted pregnancy as women in the Muslim north
Source: Guttmacher Institute