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How women suffer, die under restrictive abortion access

. . . Teenage sickler recounts ordeal

 

A teenage single mother who was forced to keep a pregnancy against her wish has spoken out how restrictive abortion access led her to give birth.

 

Now she is living in agony with the consequences of catering for a child she didn’t want in the first place.

 

 

Joy, not real name, 17, blamed her parents’ stigmatising attitude and lack of legal abortion services in the country for her decision to give birth after being impregnated by her boyfriend who said he was too young to father a child.

 

 

Her case was jumping from frying pan into fire. She has, in her life, gone through bitterness as she is a sickle cell anaemia patient.

 

 

Joy who had just secured admission into one of Nigeria’s federal universities to read Economics now faces the challenge of raising up her three-weeks old baby girl and furthering her education.

 

 

Aside the traumatic experience during her pregnancy owing to her condition, the young mother may have to live with the pain of raising the child alone without support from her run-away-lover and her parents who attributed her pregnancy to her carelessness.

 

 

Joy who said she was ignorant of the consequences of her affairs with her boyfriend as she was never allowed by her parents to associate with the male folks, however, blamed the country’s restrictive abortion laws for her present predicament.

 

 

Narrating her ordeal to our correspondent in Lagos recently, Joy who is from the South-South region of the country, said her parents’ attitude further worsened the problem and resulted to her having the baby.

 

 

Her ordeal: “I was going to buy bread for dinner in my area one Friday evening in June, 2017. I met a boy on my way who walked up to me and told me that he loved me. He collected my phone number and said he wanted us to be friends. From that time, we got charting for like a month. He was already in his second year in the university studying Computer Engineering.

 

 

“One afternoon, when my parents had gone to work, he visited me at home. When he came, he told me that he was in my house for us to know ourselves better and become more intimate. He assured me that nothing will happen that I should be brave like other girls and enjoy sex. So I ignorantly yielded to his overture.”

 

 

Joy continued: “But I didn’t tell anyone about it because of fear. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know it was going to result into pregnancy.

 

 

” For two months, I did not see my menses so I called my elder sister who told me it could be an infection. My mother was too busy with her work as a banker to notice what was going on.

 

 

“So I started treating infection. But one day, my friends told me that I was pregnant. But I ignored their statement wondering how I could be pregnant. “Four months gone without seeing my menses, I went for a pregnancy test. Lo and behold, the result was positive.”

 

 

She went on :”I got the shock of my life that day wondering how one unprotected sex could make me pregnant. I now called my boyfriend to tell him what happened. He told me that he was too young to become a father at the age of 20 and that if his uncle should hear about it, he would stop paying his school fees. So, he told me to sort out myself and never to bother him with the issue anymore after which he stopped picking my calls.”

 

 

“So I told my friends about it and they asked if I was going to keep it and I said no.

 

 

“I tried aborting it through a quack doctor about five times but it didn’t work. I even tried D&C and it still didn’t work. Then I was advised to visit qualified health personnel.

 

 

“The few places that I visited, the doctors there said they could not offer abortion services because my baby and I were in good condition. One of them, who reluctantly agreed to carry out the procedure requested for my parents’ consent.

 

 

” It was at this point I told my parents who felt so disappointed in me.They were heart broken but later started calling me all sorts of derogatory names. Now, when I requested for their consent to perform the abortion, they declined. Instead, they sent me to my elder sister’s house in Lagos to have the baby.”

 

 

She further said: “Since I delivered the baby three weeks ago, it has been a period of mourning for me because it is not what I planned for. Every night, as the baby cries, I also cry with her beacuse I do not know where the father is and nobody to support me.

 

 

“The most painful part of it is that, whenever I look at her, she reminds me of that fateful day. I don’ t know how long this sad memory will last let alone my education.”

 

 

The frustration of Joy is one among many troubles of women and girls who seek safe legal abortion procudure in Nigeria but the country’s restrictive abortions laws would not allow them.

 

 

Joy was however, so lucky to have survived the five attempts by quacks to terminate the pregnancy as many Nigerian women and girls have lost their lives to unsafe abortion.

 

 

Induced abortion is illegal in Nigeria except when performed to save a woman’s life and this has made many women to consult quacks and in the process lose their lives.

 

 

Regretably, while many are still grappling with the nation’s restrictive abortion laws, the decision of the U.S. President, Donald Trump to reinstate and extend the Global Gag Rule (GGR), has further denied women access to the procedure.

 

 

A recent study published by The Lancet publication revealed that restricting access to abortion by law does not reduce the number of abortions but only increases the risks to lives of women and girls.

 

 

According to the study, 25.5 million unsafe abortions were carried out yearly between 2010 and 2014 worldwide, with 97 per cent occurring in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

 

 

The Global Gag Rule was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 under the name of the Mexico City Policy. Since then, it has been revoked by Democratic Presidents who have taken office, and re-introduced by all Republican Presidents. In January 2017, a dramatically expanded version was signed by Trump soon after he took office.

 

 

Previously the Global Gag Rule applied to family planning funds only, this version of the Global Gag Rule applies to all global health funds provided by the US government.

 

 

It bans non-US organisations from receiving any US funds if they give information and referrals for abortion, provide safe abortion or plead for better abortion legislation.

 

 

Women’s rights groups in developing countries like Nigeria where funds and facilities are already limited, find the policy particularly worrisome.

 

 

The impact of GGR on women’s health is already being felt in a number of countries around the world, according to reproductive rights advocates.

 

 

According to Ipas, a Non-Governmental Organisation that works globally to improve access to safe abortion and contraception, Trump’s decision on Global Gag Rule is a blow to women worldwide as more than 22 million women every year almost all in developing countries will have an unsafe abortion because they lack access to safe, high-quality abortion care.

 

 

The NGO also frowns at the policy, stating that there are 225 million women in developing countries like Nigeria who want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to modern contraception.

 

 

According to a research conducted in 2012 by a United States-based Guttmacher Institute and Ipas, over 1.25 million abortions are carried out in Nigeria every year, equivalent to a rate of 33 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–49. The estimated unintended pregnancy rate was 59 per 1,000 women aged 15–49.

 

 

Ipas Country Director in Nigeria, Barrister Hauwa Shekarau, said the cost of carrying out abortion is high, and those who are not economically empowered resort to quacks, making unsafe abortion the most silent and persistent cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria.

 

 

“The abortion law in Nigeria is restrictive and it is only permitted to save the life of the woman if she is in a danger. But those that do not fall under this legal restriction are left to their own devices”,she noted.

 

 

Chairman, Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, Dr Ejike Orji, said that abortion deaths have become the second leading cause of maternal deaths in Nigeria.

 

 

Orji revealed that on the average of every five women with unsafe abortion, one of them may die.

 

 

“And where complications occur, the cost of treating the complication is six times more than an abortion that is safe. The cost of treating complications of unsafe abortion constitutes a significant financial burden on the public health care system in the developing world”, he explained.

 

 

According to Dr. Carolyn Sufrin from Physicians for Reproductive Health, a global network of medical professionals working to improve access to reproductive health care, the Global Gag Rule would affect women in developing countries most negatively and threatens to reverse progress made in improving maternal health outcomes.

 

 

“There is no question that this is targeting women in developing countries where they are already under resourced and rely on help from international organisations,” she said.

 

 

Also, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Serra Sippel, said: “Trump’s dangerously broad global gag rule exposes the Administration’s gross incompetence when it comes to global health. “Women will pay the price for this unprecedented interference with global health systems.”

 

 

For the Clinic Director at a leading sexual and reproductive health services in Kenya known as Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), Melvine Ouyo : “I think it’s going to be catastrophic. ”

 

 

” If we are to sign into the gag rule, it means then that we are going to throw away our mandate of reaching out to young women, women who need family planning services”, she said.

 

 

FHOK has already closed a clinic in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa and more cuts may be coming. “If we cannot get other means, if we cannot intervene in the right time, we are going to see a suffering country,” Ouyo said.

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