Unsafe abortions rife among teens

MANY teenagers still turn to backstreet abortionists rather than legal facilities to end unwanted pregnancies.

Tshepang Mashego of Soshanguve in Tshwane is a good example. She was 16 when she tried to end her six-week pregnancy in 2006.

She said she succumbed to pressure from friends at the time.

Mashego first went to a local community clinic where she waited for hours in long queues for attention.

"I felt degraded because the nurses were rude. They said they were not there to help us make the babies, so why did we need their help [when we were in trouble]."

The desperate teenager was anxious to end her pregnancy. So she searched for a quick solution before her parents discovered she was pregnant.

"I came across an advert in the newspaper that offered abortion services. It was in the newspaper, so I believed it was professional," she said.

Mashego phoned the number and was directed to a building in central Pretoria. There she met a foreigner, who led her into a room.

The quack's rates depended on the duration of the abortion and started from R200.

"He charged me R400 because I was six weeks pregnant.

"He gave me one full white pill to put under my tongue and broke another pill into four pieces.

"He then put the pieces inside my vagina with a glove that looked like it had been used before.

"I felt uncomfortable but he told me to rub my breasts to reduce the pain," said Mashego.

The man sent Mashego home and told her to wait eight hours for the bleeding to begin.

"Eight hours passed and nothing happened. I was still waiting for the bleeding to start four days later."

She went back to the building but found that the man had moved.

Mashego realised the setup was a scam and gave up on aborting the pregnancy.

"The only option I had left was to tell my parents and pray that I would be okay because I had no idea what the man had put inside me."

Months later she developed a vaginal infection and went to her nearby clinic, where she was given antibiotics.

"Thank God I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

"I love my boy so much. I now believe [the experience] was God's way of saving my boy."

A health professional who declined to be named said back-door abortions have harmed many girls. Some die and others are unable to conceive again because their wombs are damaged.

"In desperate attempts, women go to traditional healers or self-medi cate with over-the-counter medicine such as laxatives or household products.

"Others have had electrical wires, with the copper wires exposed, inserted inside their private parts. Some use a crochet needle that hooks onto the uterus hoping to terminate the pregnancy.

"Urinary catheters are also inserted inside the vagina to disturb the foetus in the uterus," said the health professional.

The World Health Organisation blames high abortion rates on poor access to family planning facilities, financial difficulties and abandonment. Others include relationship problems with the partner, pregnancy from rape or incest, and maternal or foetal health risks.