Quinter Atieno was 13 years old when she first sought out a back-alley abortion. Her cash-strapped single mother could barely scrape together enough money to keep food on the table for Atieno and her younger siblings. Faced with the fear of going hungry, Atieno made the difficult decision to trade sex for money.
Soon, she was making enough to help feed her family. But she still could not afford birth control, and the teenager quickly became pregnant. The father of her unborn baby refused to support her. “I could not raise the baby, so I decided to abort,” recalls soft-spoken Atieno, now 17, wearing a faded sundress.
Atieno lives inthe Korogocho slum bordering Nairobi’s massive Dandora trash dump, among endless rows of tin, mud, and wood shanties. Running water and in-home electricity are seen as luxuries. And many children, like Atieno, drop out of school early to find whatever work they can.
Staring up at the ceiling of a local health center—one of the only concrete buildings in the area —Atieno swallows hard to fight back tears as she recalled her first self-induced abortion. She sits on a couch so badly worn that springs and stuffing spill out beneath her seat.
“It was very painful—losing a lot of blood, and the stomach [pain], backache, and dizziness because of losing blood,” she continues, describing the effects of an herbal concoction a local woman made for her. “There [were] no painkillers.”
Atieno nearly died from the self-induced abortion. She would survive two more illegal procedures in the years that followed. She was lucky—several of her closest friends died after ingesting harmful drugs, herbs, and detergent, even inserting crochet needles into their vaginas as a last resort.
Atieno is just one of thousands upon thousands of women worldwide who, lacking access to contraceptives and safe abortion services, have turned to dangerous and often life-threatening procedures to end unwanted pregnancies.
Abortion is illegal in Kenya. But, as Caitlin Parks, a family planning fellow at Washington University in St. Louis who works in Kenya, tells The New York Times, it is sometimes allowed when the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s health. Even those allowances may not hold in coming months: Due to a controversial U.S. policy recently reinstated by President Donald Trump that affects global sexual and reproductive health funding, access to abortion and other life-saving health services will now be increasingly restricted.
Read article here.