Woman’s backstreet abortion backfires

27th June 2017
Dr Molelekwa Source:The Midweek Sun


By Rachel Raditsebe -

A 35-year-old woman from Samai settlement is struggling with recurrent miscarriage and believes a crude abortion she had four years ago may have ruined her life. Dineo Motswaiso had an illegal abortion because right about the time she found out she was pregnant, she had also found a well-paying job in Jwaneng. “Back home, the only job I could get was with Ipelegeng. I had hustled for over four years doing menial jobs,” said a disheartened Motswaiso. She added, “I was two months pregnant and I opted to abort so that I do not lose the well-paying job, which I had looked for, for many years.”

After advice from close friends, she visited a well-known traditional midwife in her settlement. She said she was never counseled and the midwife proceeded to conduct an abortion. Motswaiso said she bled for about one month after the ordeal. She eventually received some medication, which stopped the bleeding. “I got the job, and after sometime I married the man of my dreams. However, after several months, it became apparent I cannot carry pregnancy to term,” she said. She has conceived about four times but lost each pregnancy after two to three months.

“My husband divorced me after three years in marriage because I could not bear him a kid. I still regret the decision I made out of desperation,” she said. Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Reproductive Health Services and Family Clinic, Dr Vincent Molelekwa said the normal procedure for a woman who has tried to induce an abortion is to undergo a Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) to complete the process.

MVA is a process that removes uterine contents through the cervix. It is normally used as a therapeutic procedure after a miscarriage or to obtain a sample for endometrial biopsy. And unless the uterus remains are cleared from the woman’s womb, she might acquire infections that could lead to infertility, according to Dr Molelekwa. Although he has come across women with botched abortions, Dr Molelekwa said for a large number of women, it’s not always easy to tell whether it’s an abortion unless they come in presenting complications. Some experts say the high rates of backstreet abortions clearly underscore the need to improve and expand access to effective contraceptive services.

This would ensure that women also receive comprehensive information about how to use their chosen method consistently and correctly. However, Dr Molelekwa said unintended pregnancies also occur among women using contraceptive methods who experience method failure or those who become pregnant as a result of rape. Abortion is strictly prohibited in Botswana; it carries stiff penalties, although in 1991 the Penal Code was amended to allow it in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy under special circumstances.

That is, if the pregnancy was a result of rape, incest, or defilement; or if the woman is mentally deficient; or if the child would be born with a serious physical or mental abnormality. Researcher in Health Policy and Health Systems Strengthening, Thabo Seleke has reiterated the need for policy reform by putting abortion debate in the policy agenda in the country.

He said women continue to encounter many challenges; “safe abortion, voluntary sterilisation or emergency contraception are often prohibited or difficult to access. They lack financial resources to pay for reproductive health services or the transport to get them.” He has also called for advocates like Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso, to ensure that there is continuity and not make once-off proposals in their calls for decriminalisation of abortion. Motswaiso* said she is lucky she did not lose her life. “I should never have had the abortion, but the problem is that backstreet ‘doctors’ don’t even try to counsel you. They just want money,” she said. (*not her real name)

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