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In this heartbreaking and difficult to read article, a woman who had an unsafe abortion shares her story. She asked us to not use her real name. Some of her story reflects the harrowing nature of unsafe abortion and is quite graphic.
In Senegal abortion is neither legal nor safe.
“I realise my story must sound crazy. I’m only 24 years old, unmarried still, and yet I have already had two abortions. And that in a country where sex, especially outside of marriage, is an enormous taboo, and where abortion is strictly illegal.
“So both my abortions happened in the deepest secret. The first one was performed when I was only 16 years old, in an expensive private clinic, under safe circumstances.
“It was over quickly and I had no complications. It was a huge family drama though. My mother was incredibly angry with me.
“It was the second abortion that nearly killed me. It was four years ago. I couldn’t believe I was pregnant again, but knew straight away that I was going to have an abortion. I couldn’t put my mother through all that shame for a second time, so I told her nothing.
“I had already borrowed the 130,000 francs ($252) necessary to go back to the same clinic, when a friend suggested another option. She knew a guy that only cost 35,000 francs ($66).
“It was safe, she said; she and a few friends had had abortions there, never with the slightest problem. She wanted 25,000 francs ($48) though, for the tip she gave me.
“With hindsight, I should have walked away the moment I saw the guy who was to perform the abortion. He was, quite frankly, bizarre. He had wild long hair and a weird look in his eyes. He stank of alcohol. He lived in a dirty house with many other people. His room was littered with clothes. I panicked, but my friend persuaded me to stay.
“The guy told me to undress and lie down on his filthy bed. I did, and he slid a thin, long plastic tube in my vagina. It was over in a minute. He then told me that the tube would come out by itself within three days. He also gave me an injection and prescribed me antibiotics.
“For three days nothing happened, except for a little bleeding. So I went back to the guy, who went inside me with his fingers again to move the tube to a different position.
“A few hours later I began to bleed heavily. It didn’t stop for a whole week. Four, five times a day I lost heaps of thick, lumpy blood.
“One the seventh day, when the tube came out, I started to feel very bad. I had immense pains in my lower stomach, and contractions so strong they took my breath away. When I called the guy he told me this was normal.
“During the night though, the pain became unbearable. My parents still knew nothing, so I woke my niece, who lived in the same house. Her parents immediately rushed me to the hospital. In the first hospital they examined me and told me I had to go to another, better equipped hospital, as my case was very serious.
“In the second hospital they didn’t want to admit me, as there were already too many patients. It was only thanks to the intervention of my uncle, who is an influential army colonel, that they finally admitted me.
“I owe my life to my uncle, I realize now. Back then, however, I felt too sick to really care about anything. They put me in a bed on a drip. Throughout the night the bleeding and the pain lessened.
“My suffering wasn’t over yet, though. The next day a doctor examined me. He said what he was going to do would be very painful.
“He called a gorilla of a man, who held me so tight I couldn’t move a muscle. Then the doctor went inside me with his hand and removed at least a litre of crusty blood. The foetus also came out, which he then showed to me.
“He said I had lost dangerous amounts of blood, and I was in incredible pain. During the following days, though, I slowly recovered.
“Of course, my mother found out everything. She refused to even look at me for a long time.
“Now everything is ok between us, but we never, ever talk about what happened. I don’t even want to be near guys anymore.
“It is my dream to get married one day, and live a normal, happy family life. For me that is still possible, since nothing is damaged inside me.
“I realize every day how lucky I am, and that many other girls have not been so fortunate.”
At Marie Stopes International, we want to make sure that no woman has to suffer in this way. We believe that making sure that all women have access to a full range of contraception is one of the ways to do this. The woman who told her story here is now on a family planning method provided by Marie Stopes International, to ensure she doesn’t have to go through such an experience again.
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