Crooked Doctors Mint Money in Risky Backstreet Abortions

October 15, 2013

The Standard – Online

August 28, 2013

NAIROBI, KENYA: Nineteen-year-old Victoria reenacts how a doctor at a clinic in Huruma pumped out blood from her womb using some straw-like plastic. She was 17 then.

I didn’t even know I was pregnant, until I started falling sick. My mother asked if I was pregnant. I shared with a friend, and she said we need to check out and get rid of it, fast.

They did. A local doctor at the backroom of a two-roomed, plywood partitioned clinic asked her not to scream. The pain was unbearable. Then the bleeding was unstoppable.

After a few months, she was pregnant again. She had learnt the ropes but unlike the first time when she was asked to cough Sh2,000, this second doctor, deemed an expert who works at a reputable hospital but operating a clinic in Madoya, Huruma, asked for Sh5,000.

Other girls in Huruma say some of the people operating the local pharmacies and clinics also work in big hospitals but have found a quick avenue to make money through abortions.

According to Kenyan law and the World Health Organisation (WHO), these doctors or health workers are categorized as quacks. The WHO says that performing an abortion in an environment that does not conform to minimum medical standards is unsafe. It further defines unsafe abortion as a procedure for terminating pregnancy, carried out by persons lacking the necessary skills.

But safety was the last thing in Victoria’s mind. The pregnancy had to go; otherwise her parents would disown her. The doctor gave Victoria some tablets, saying they were painkillers. Then he asked me to lie on a table then used scissors on me.

The first time, the pregnancy was three months. The second, she says, she visited the doctor at five months, which according to the Ministry of Health should not be the case, as termination of pregnancy in the second trimester should be done in facilities with adequate supportive care like blood transfusion and a theatre.

This is according to a Standards and guidelines handbook for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion in Kenya, published by the Ministry of Health last year.

The book like the Constitution says abortions are not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy.

But women like Victoria rarely learn from mistakes. After her second abortion, Victoria joined a local high school and settled down for her studies. But soon she met a garbage collector who would smile at her everyday, then started buying her chips and giving her bus fare. After a while, she was in love.
She fell pregnant for the third time. She was in Form Four. She went ahead and sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams last year while pregnant.

At eight months, she decided get rid of it. She paid Sh6,000 to another doctor who told her that it was a small matter. This time, the doctor injected her hand and then used a tool that look like a crochet needle.

The pain was excruciating. Unlike the previous time when blood came out, a water like substance oozed. After a second injection, I was asked to push, and push. Alas. the baby was alive. It cried once, and then went quiet. I do not know what they did with it.

That Victoria has sought abortion three times does not shock reproductive health experts like Dr. Joachim Osur. As the director of IPAS, an organization that works towards ending preventable deaths from unsafe abortion, Dr. Osur has seen it all.

Anywhere in the world, whether there are restrictive or liberal abortion rules, when a woman decides to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy, she will. The only difference is the means and where it is done, says Dr Osur.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-09 says that 43 per cent of Kenyan pregnancies are unwanted.

Last year, the unwanted pregnancies, close to half a million were aborted in Kenya, clandestinely. This is according to a report by the African Population and Health Research Centre in partnership with the Ministry of Health, IPAS and Guttmacher Institute on the incidence and complications of abortion in Kenya.

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