It was Thandi’s* worst nightmare: she was about to start studying towards her dream career when she found out she was pregnant. She knew this could ruin all her future plans, plus she wasn’t even sure that she and her boyfriend were all that serious.
In a panic, she Googled ‘cheap pain free abortions’. She hadn’t stopped to consider all her options, or the fact that there might be a safe, legal way to go about terminating her pregnancy. Instead, she opened up a few links she found online, and soon the 20-year-old from Umtata found herself on a street corner, paying a man R650.00 for a set of ‘abortion pills’.
Even though she had a bad feeling about it, she convinced herself that she was being paranoid. It wasn’t like she found the advert on a street pole – it was a proper website! Plus, the guy she got the pills from was really convincing. Even though he didn’t have actual medical premises, he said he’d helped lots of women like her, and that it would work. Thandi ignored the nervousness she felt and decided to take the pills. After all, she was desperate for a solution, and she didn’t want anyone to know about the situation she’d found herself in.
Cheap and ‘pain free’ abortions: the real cost
Not long after taking the pills, Thandi became ill, and then discovered she was still pregnant. Not to worry, the man convinced her – sometimes this happens. He sold her more pills, again for R650.00… and when it didn’t work a second time, he sold her a third set, for yet another R650.00.
Still pregnant and feeling cheated, Thandi finally realised that she’d been scammed: she’d spent nearly R2000.00 on pills that hadn’t worked, and now she needed a real, legal and safe solution. But she had no idea where to go. Finally, she confessed everything to her best friend, who told her about Marie Stopes.
Within days, Thandi had visited her nearest Marie Stopes centre and received counselling, proper treatment and care, and a safe, legal and effective abortion. Best of all, it had been completely confidential, so no one even knew she’d been.
Complications arising from cheap and ‘pain free’ abortions
Thandi was lucky. She wasted a lot of money, but thankfully, that’s the only price she paid for using an illegal abortion provider. Some women pay a much higher price, like jeopardising their health or even their lives.
Immediate complications that can arise from unsafe abortions may include severe bleeding, uterine perforation, tearing of the cervix, severe damage to the genitals and/or abdomen, and internal infections and/or blood poisoning. Medium-term complications can range from reproductive tract infections and pelvic inflammatory disease to chronic pain. Over time, long-term complications may include slightly increased risk of infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in which the foetus develops outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tube), miscarriage or premature delivery in later pregnancies.
Aside from these dangers, the most common result of using an illegal provider is that the procedure is usually ineffective. In many cases, an unsafe provider will give you a set of pills that will make you ill for a brief time, and afterwards you’ll discover you’re still pregnant. Along with the health risks of taking these pills – pills that could be anything – there’s the expense of paying for something that’s a scam.
Do cheap, pain free abortions really exist?
No – at least, not the ones you find on the internet. It’s true that an abortion isn’t necessarily painful, but any termination provided by an illegal practice is unlikely to be effective, and could very well put your health at risk.
Remember that it is legal to have an abortion in South Africa, which means that you can go to any doctor or clinic registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for a confidential, safe abortion.
How do I spot an illegal abortion provider?
This checklist will help you to easily identify an unsafe provider of abortions. You can also read this article that explains the safe abortion procedure in detail, so you know exactly what to expect.
If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, we can help you. There’s no judgement and everything stays between us. We’ll counsel you on your options and help you to make the best choice for your needs and your life. Book an appointment online or by calling 0800 11 77 85, or find your nearest Marie Stopes centre now.
*Not her real name