“They Just Poke, Poke, Poke”

“They Just Poke, Poke, Poke”

It’s worth bearing in mind the alternative to legal abortions:

“BEREGA, Tanzania — A handwritten ledger at the hospital tells a grim story. For the month of January, 17 of the 31 minor surgical procedures here were done to repair the results of “incomplete abortions.” A few may have been miscarriages, but most were botched operations by untrained, clumsy hands.

Abortion is illegal in Tanzania (except to save the mother’s life or health), so women and girls turn to amateurs, who may dose them with herbs or other concoctions, pummel their bellies or insert objects vaginally. Infections, bleeding and punctures of the uterus or bowel can result, and can be fatal. Doctors treating women after these bungled attempts sometimes have no choice but to remove the uterus. (…)

Worldwide, there are 19 million unsafe abortions a year, and they kill 70,000 women (accounting for 13 percent of maternal deaths), mostly in poor countries like Tanzania where abortion is illegal, according to the World Health Organization. More than two million women a year suffer serious complications. According to Unicef, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. (…)

The 120-bed hospital in Berega depends on solar panels and a generator, which is run for only a few hours a day. Short on staff members, supplies and even water, the hospital puts a lot of its scarce resources into cleaning up after failed abortions. (…)

Dr. Mdoe (…) said rumor had it that many abortions were done by a man in Gairo, a town west of Berega. In some cases, he said, the abortionist only started the procedure, knowing that doctors would have to finish the job.

Dr. Mdoe said he suspected that some of the other illegal abortionists were hospital workers with delusions of surgical skill.

“They just poke, poke, poke,” he said. “And then the woman has to come here.” Sometimes the doctors find fragments of sticks left inside the uterus, an invitation to sepsis.”

“Poke, poke, poke.” With sticks. In the uterus. With any luck, if abortion were legal here, illegal abortionists wouldn’t use sticks; just rusty and unhygienic instruments of other kinds. Goody.

70,000 dead women is an awful lot. And that, not a world without abortions, is the alternative.