When a woman faces an unwanted pregnancy she has few options in many parts of the world. To terminate the fetus she risks prison or the possibility of death. Still 17 million women this year will take that risk by having an illegal abortion.
In Tanzania abortions other than those to save a mother's life or health are illegal. Because of that hospitals in the nation due with the complications of illegal abortions.
In January one hospital performed 31 minor surgical procedures for the month, 17 of those were to repair damages as the result of 'incomplete abortions.' While some of those may have been miscarriages the doctors knew most were from untrained hands attempting to abort a fetus.
Women and girls in Tanzania have no where to turn other than the amateurs when they choice to terminate a pregnancy. Some punch them in the stomach, others insert objects into their vagina and still others use herbs and who knows what in order to terminate the pregnancy.
Those who turn to the back street abortionists risk infection, bleeding, tears into the uterus or bowel and death. They also face the possibility of emergency hysterectomies as doctors race to save their lives.
In Africa it is dangerous to be pregnant. For every 100,000 births 950 women will die. Compared to the 11 deaths per 100,000 women in the United States and even lower counts in other developed countries those figures show the grim realities.
In Latin America its estimated that 5,000 women die every year from illegal abortions. In Chile, Colombia and El Salvador hundreds of women are prosecuted for terminating their pregnancies. Despite being illegal in Chile and Peru one woman in 20 has had an abortion.
Women's ENews quotes Cristina Alonso who works at the Luna Maya birthing clinic in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
Alonso: "In Latin America, we still have very concrete gender frameworks in terms of male sexual behavior. Men are not supposed to be responsible for the consequences of sexual behavior, but they are supposed to be active sexually . . . Women, on the other hand, still maintain fairly strong gender notions of passivity, of wanting to trust the man. You know there's this whole idea in Latin America of romance and 'maybe if I do get pregnant he'll stay with me forever.'"Worldwide there are 19 million unsafe abortions every year. According to the World Health Organization 70,000 to 200,000 women will die as a result of one of the blotched illegal abortions. More than two million women will face a serious complication because of turning to an amateur to terminate their pregnancy.
In Tanzania those caught practicing abortions face a 14-year prison term. A woman who ends her pregnancy illegally faces seven years in prison.
The New York Times reports:
“They are supposed to be arrested,” Dr. Mdoe said. “Our work as physicians is just to help and make sure they get healed.”
He went on, “We as medical personnel think abortion should be legal so a qualified person can do it and you can have safe abortion.” There are no plans in Tanzania to change the law.
The woman don't talk, the doctors don't ask.