Kenya backstreet abortions kill thousands every year

Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:04am EDT
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By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI, Oct 25 (TrustLaw) - "I was bleeding like hell. I knew that I was going to die," Emily said, recalling how she sat naked on a plastic basin, hemorrhaging blood for two weeks after paying $10 for an abortion in Nairobi's Mathare slum.

"It is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. Even giving birth is not as painful as doing abortion."

One reason the world's population is soaring -- to 7 billion, by U.N. calculations, on October 31 -- is because many poor women have little control over their bodies or their fertility.

One place where that is most apparent is in Kenya, where high rates of sexual violence, limited access to family planning and poverty mean 43 per cent of pregnancies are unwanted.

The majority of these women and girls have no choice but to give birth because abortion in most cases is technically illegal, although enforcement of laws around abortion are ambiguous, leading to one standard for the rich and another for the poor and uneducated.

As a result, at least 2,600 Kenyan women die in public hospitals each year after having botched backstreet abortions. Many more die at home without seeking medical care. And another 21,000 are admitted for treatment of abortion-related complications.

When Emily, 28, found out she was pregnant in 2009, her boyfriend denied it was his child and left her. She was jobless and already had a seven-year-old daughter, Ashley, to care for. Emily's friends advised her to terminate the pregnancy.

"I have seen what my girls have gone through with abortion. I was very afraid," she said, adding how she found a 20-year-old friend dead alongside a note explaining how she had drunk a bottle of bleach hoping to cause a miscarriage.   Continued...

<p>A woman walks on a street in the Korogocho slums in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Natasha Elkington</p>