FOR fear of facing her father for the second time with the news that she was pregnant yet again out of wedlock, Agnes Kanandwe 20, decided to abort using a razor blade.
For Agnes the only logical option was aborting than facing the wrath of her father to discuss the pregnancy when the man responsible had denied responsibility.
Agnes had cause to fear her father because three years earlier, she was pregnant for another man.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, my father was livid. He called me all sorts of derogatory names imaginable. He threatened that he would kill me if I ever got pregnant in his house again, and I knew he meant it because my father doesn’t joke,” she said.
At 20 weeks into the pregnancy, Agnes of Iyanda area in Itezhi tezhi district took up the challenge of procuring a self-induced abortion using a razor blade.
One cannot imagine what was going on in Agnes mind and where she got the courage to terminate her pregnancy using a razor blade.
However, thanks to the prompt response from medical personnel at Itezhi tezhi District Hospital in saving Agnes’s life and that of her unborn child.
Agnes said she had no choice but to terminate the pregnancy by whatever means because she scared her father would kill her once he learnt about her being pregnant for a second time.
Agnes explained that when she was two months pregnant with her second pregnancy, she told her boyfriend who denied the responsibility.
This was a dicey situation for Agnes after the traumatic experience she went through during her son who is now two years old. It was because of the mental anguish and threats of physical abuse that Agnes decided she could not keep the second pregnancy.
On an unknown date in February 2016 and when her pregnancy was 20 weeks old, Agnes isolated herself in a thatched-house at her parents’ home; she cut open up her tummy at the bottom-right using one of the razor blade.
“From the time my boyfriend denied responsibility, I made a decision that I could not keep the baby. This was painful for me because even the father to my first son also denied responsibility. I then decided to find ways terminating the second pregnancy.
As I sat alone, I remembered that I had some razor blades somewhere in my room. I then took one which I used to open up my tummy so that the foetus can come out. I was so scared, ashamed and confused; I knew what I was doing was wrong but all I wanted was to preserve my relations with my family,” she said.
But Agnes’s mission failed because she was rushed to Itezhi tezhi District Hospital where she was sutured after being hospitalised for 10 days.
“I was kept in the hospital for 10 days because the police wanted to arrest me for attempted abortion. I am so grateful to the doctor in-charge of the hospital and his wife, who is also a doctor who defended me by ensuring that I was not arrested but only counseled,” she says.
Although abortion in Zambia is legal on medical and social grounds, most women and girls resort to illegal means because services are inaccessible and unacceptable mainly because of religious beliefs and the negative perceptions by society in relation to abortions.
Most girls resort to illegal means of terminating pregnancies for fear of being expelled from school and their unwillingness to reveal a secret relationship.
For Agnes, the decision to abort was primarily determined by the reaction of the boyfriend and his unwillingness to accept paternity and the associated financial implications.
Agnes dropped out of school in Grade Seven because her parents could not afford to pay for her educational requirements after she qualified to grade eight.
Hospital senior resident medical officer Crispin Bobwa says Agnes was brought to the hospital by her mother as an emergency case of attempted abortion.
“Agnes was brought to the hospital with her intestines exposed. This was after an attempted abortion at home. Her condition was stable because she didn’t cut any of her intestines and didn’t bleed that much because of tummy-fat. We counselled her and gave her options either to keep the pregnancy or undergo a safe abortion at the hospital which is legal in Zambia.
After the counselling, she chose to keep the pregnancy for fear of being arrested once she was discharged from the hospital.
But despite her decision to keep the pregnancy and while in hospital, the police were still pursuing her for attempted abort. That is how we intervened as a hospital to explain the consequences of what they intended to do with the young lady,” Dr Bobwa said.
Dr Bobwa says Agnes case was one of the many emergency cases that he has attended to during his nine years of service at the hospital.
“One a monthly basis, we have over 10 cases of failed self-induced abortion cases. This is after the victims attempt to abort and later come to the hospital with complications,” he said.
Dr Bobwa said most reasons given by those seeking to abort are often far more complex than simply not intending to become pregnant. We have discovered that the decision to have an abortion is usually motivated by more than one factor.
He said while improved contraceptive use like Jadelle, Depo-Provera and pills can help reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, some abortions will remain difficult to prevent hence the need for available access to the service once requested.
“Some abortions will remain difficult to prevent because of women’s and girl’s ability to determine and control all circumstances of their lives,” Dr Bobwa said.
According to health experts, adolescents face higher reproductive risks than older women.
In Zambia, pregnancies are deemed to be a common occurrence amongst the adolescents, with an estimated two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies ending in unsafe abortions.