“After my aunt discovered that I was pregnant, she insisted that I abort since she said I was going to bring shame to the family. She accompanied me to a place in Mbare where someone facilitated the abortion.
“She broke the amniotic sac in the womb with a metal knitting needle. My intestines were perforated and an infection, from which I’ve not recovered, developed.
“It was a backyard abortion and was carried out under the cover of darkness. The place was filthy and I guess the instruments were used on many people,” said a 16-year-old survivor of abortion.
Sadly, many women do not survive to tell their story. Since abortion is illegal in Zimbabwe, many people resort to backstreet abortions administered by professional doctors and mainly unskilled elderly women.
A snap survey showed that medical practitioners are willing to perform abortions at a high fee since they would be risking their medical careers.
The high cost has seen many desperate women opting for the squalid and unsafe abodes in backyards.
An unsafe abortion is the termination of an unwanted pregnancy by persons lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment lacking minimal medical standards.
An unsafe abortion may also refer to an abortion performed by a medical doctor who does not offer appropriate post-abortion attention.
High density suburbs are awash with these illegal aborting places operated at homes.
At one of the places in Western Triangle, Highfield, many women could be seen loitering around waiting for their turn to make “bookings”.
Residents of the neighbourhood said many people, especially young girls, frequent the place. Some come just to collect the “concoctions” so that they carry out the abortions at their homes.
There are many cases where young girls are dying after unsafe abortions. One woman said she lost her daughter after she successfully aborted but died afterwards because the womb was not “cleaned” so she developed an infection.
“We only realised it after the post-mortem. The doctor said she had died because she developed complications after the abortion, we never knew that she was pregnant let alone that she had had an abortion,” she said.
People have no kind words for those who carry out these abortions because some of the girls they help are under age and often opt for abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
One woman who performed these abortions said there are different methods of abortions depending on the age of the foetus.
“Sometimes we try to break the amniotic sac in the womb with a sharp object like a wire, or we pump traditional concoctions such as plant poison, chilli pepper or any other substance into the body of the woman and in some cases we give the woman abortifacient drugs or any drug not indicated for abortion but known to result in miscarriage or uterine contraction,” she said.
Harare based medical practitioner Dr Mlungisi Ndebele said all the methods used in these abortions were usafe.
“Abortion is illegal except in extreme cases were a minor is raped or the supposed mother is deemed mentally unstable or the pregnancy is a health risk to the mother.
“These methods are not encouraged as many cause infections and putting poisonous substance in the body can cause toxic shock and death,” he said.
Statistics show that in 2010, about 20 million people had abortions and 79% of the abortions were carried in developing countries. More than 200 000 women died in developing countries.
A police officer stationed at Machipisa Police Station said cases of illegal abortions were on the rise in the area and so was the mortality rate attendant to these abortions.
“We are witnessing an influx of these cases almost every month. We urge people to desist from these acts as it is illegal and dangerous to their lives. People who have information on where these abortions are being practiced should assist the police,” said the officer.
Pastor Brighton Dengu of the Evangelical Fellowship Church said abortion was not only a crime but a sin to God.
“People should learn to control their actions. Abortion is the same as murder and is a gross sin.
“Police know that these things are happening and they should follow leads and arrest perpetrators. One may cover her tracks well, but in the eyes of the Lord it is visible and bare,” he said.
Research has shown that abortion is just a temporary solution as the consequences are often hard to live with.
The Institute of Behavioural Change observed that most people who considered having abortions change their minds after some counselling and, in its journal, it stated that feelings of loneliness, grief, emptiness and guilty conscience haunt people who had an abortion in life.
A woman who identified herself as Mai Charity said she had an abortion in 1996 and afterwards she felt guilty and worthless.
“Each time I hear a person saying they were born in 1996, I am constantly reminded of my child, the feelings of, what if I had let him live? constantly engulf me. I have tried to commit suicide several times because of the pain I feel.
“I was a vulnerable and naïve young girl then and the man responsible encouraged me to abort, so that he could avoid responsibility. After that, he just abandoned me,” she said.
The book Abortion — How Serious Is It? states that the feeling that one killed a helpless creature she was supposed to protect renders life meaningless. Many people struggle with the pain and isolation, loneliness and dark secrets haunt them.
Ndebele said that it is common for a woman who once had an abortion to fail to conceive. “Sometimes the uterus is damaged in the process of destroying the foetus and the person may fail to conceive in the future,” he said.