Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Abortion Abroad: Part 2

I visited a semi-rural reproductive health clinic in Kenya. Impressive! My org has done a great job recruiting talented clinic staff and outreach counselors to give women accurate information (save for one glaring translation typo!) and quality services that I myself have utilized. They even have a system for providing affordable services to women who would otherwise not be able to afford prenatal care or birth control. I donated anyway; do you know how far a measly few dollars goes??

I sat and discussed patient issues with the provider at one clinic: how many IUD insertions he completes in one month (a lot); how many women have them removed (none); how many women/babies had been lost during delivery (only one woman, due to a surprise post-partum hemmorhage). Naturally, I asked - knowing the answer in advance - if he had ever performed an abortion. He had not. But he had seen a handful of women who had sustained injuries or illnesses from clandestine abortions. Every village has its man or woman who has abortion secrets and serves dozens of women in the community. Injuries happen frequently, he explained, though few women present for treatment because they are a) afraid of being punished, or b) dead already. These village practitioners use herbs, potions, sharp objects, the usual. Of course, we in the "developed world" know how dangerous these methods are (right?), but by the time a woman actually presents for treatment from such complications her condition is more dire than this comprehensive, yet limited, clinic can accommodate. The provider sends those cases to the area hospital, many kilometers away from his clinic, down a dirt road with a heavily worn surface that makes for a very uncomfortable, perhaps deadly, ride. The provider was excited, though, about the advent of MVA in the developing world. He had never performed an abortion, nor had he been trained in the technique, but he was optimistic that rural women would be able to receive safe abortion care (where permitted) in low-tech environments without issue. However, he lamented, MVA can only do so much for botched procedures and life-endangering cases. Alas.

Kenya passed its new constitution within the last week, including some controversial language about abortion. This was the subject of debate for months, rife with anti-abortion rhetoric and TV infomercials akin to clinic-protesting signs (yuck). And I just hope that clinic providers like my guy above can band together to, at the very least, uphold the life endangerment clause. I have my doubts however; a female doctor in one of those anti commercials described, in her "medical opinion", that abortion is a "senseless death". I guess having a new perspective helps me appreciate the way things are in the Nifty Fifty.

It's a long road ahead, for all of us.


  1. It's a long road, all right, full of bumps and goblins from the misogynists in all parts of the world. (sigh). What I find particularly remarkable is the women in the world who hate other women enough to deny them comprehensive health care including abortion.

  2. Um, that is an AMAZING picture. I don't really understand it, actually. It's from the national family planning association? Are they depicting abortion as a saw cutting through the woman's body and the mini-man inside of her because they are anti-abortion and ignorant of how abortion is actually performed? Or are they doing it because they are anti-unsafe-abortion and wanted to show that most extralegal abortions are about as safe as sawing through your stomach? (I'm guessing the former, which is too bad for a famplan group.)

  3. Yeah, I had some debate about it too but I didn't want to ask anyone in the clinic in case it opened a can of worms. The way I see it, pretty much all abortions in Kenya are illegal/unsafe, so while this implies that abortion is bad it's because the majority of them are. But I think the imagery has more to do with back-alley methods that actually do kill women (and not just Kenyans!).


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.