A 24-year-old lady slumped back in a wheelchair in front of gynecologist’s office after drinking some green concoction given to her by a traditional doctor to help her abort her pregnancy.
According to a gynecologist, Dr. Rowland Taylor, 24-years-old Menunatu Kamara was close to his office on her wheelchair when she slumped, but she was lucky.
Dr. Taylor said he sees two women a week, on average, who have had an unsafe abortion.
Pregnant Kamara had gone to see a traditional practitioner who she believed would help her abort her pregnancy so she was instructed to drink a sour green concoction and she began to bleed shortly.
When she got pregnant, Menuna said she wasn’t sure what to do. She knew she wanted to concentrate on her education, but abortion is illegal in Sierra Leone.
“I was so scared and was afraid to tell anyone,” she remembers. “I felt so, so sick … so bad.”
When her older sister found her crawling around on the floor bleeding and in unbearable pain, she took her straight to hospital. They arrived just in time and a safe post-abortion procedure was performed.
Kamara was one of the lucky ones. Many other women and girls who visit traditional practitioners for what are commonly called “backstreet abortions”, aren’t so fortunate, they die.
“Unsafe abortion is a major issue in Sierra Leone, one that accounts for an estimated 10 per cent of maternal deaths in public hospitals,” says the vice president of research and evaluation at IPAS, Janie Benson. IPAS is a global organisation working to end preventable deaths and disabilities as a result of unsafe abortions.
“Many more women are unable to seek care in health facilities and die in their communities or suffer short or long-term morbidity,” she continues.
Kamara’s boyfriend of several months had refused to wear a condom, and she had not known about the birth control pill, but many others end up pregnant as a result of rape.
Another victim, Anne Marie-Caulkner was raped when she was 16. When she discovered she was pregnant, she found a nurse who gave her an injection that was supposed to help her abort the foetus.
“It affected me for a whole month,” she says, describing the pain. “I thought I was going to die. There was so much blood and this baby was in me, dead. I wanted to die.”
That was decades ago and Caulkner says she still faces irregular periods which she believes are a side effect of the abortion.

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