Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Abortion: 'If only I had known more'

Judy (not her real name), a 26-year-old Kenyan student who had an illegal abortion aged 18, gives the BBC her reaction to US President Barack Obama's recent decision to end a ban on US aid money going to abortion counselling groups.

Positive pregnancy test
Abortions are illegal in many African countries
It makes me very angry when I think of what I had to go through.

But I am very happy that clinics in Kenya can now provide abortion advice.

I was still in secondary school when I found out I was pregnant.

There did not seem to be any international agencies in Kenya then giving advice on abortions and the side-effects they can have.

I had been in a relationship for three years, but my boyfriend left me as soon as he heard that I was expecting.

I was naive at that time. We were using condoms but somehow I got pregnant. I think the condom might have burst without me realising it.

I felt I had no option; I just had to get an abortion.

I was still at school, living with my parents and wasn't able to support myself financially yet.

Still, it was an incredibly difficult decision to make. I thought the abortion would make me infertile.

It was done in a hospital that performs illegal abortions. My aunt told me about the place. Her daughter had had an abortion there.

My best friend had accompanied me to the hospital. But they did not allow her to stay with me.

It seemed like a good place - very clean, white rooms. It made me think that the procedure would be ok. But still it went badly.

Very alone

After admitting me to the ward at nine in the morning, they examined me. They told me I was 15 weeks pregnant.

The doctor inserted a white pill into my vagina to kill the foetus. After four hours, I was sent to the operating theatre to have it extracted.

Had I known how traumatic the abortion was, I would have kept the baby

I felt very alone in that big, white room. It was just me and the two doctors

I was given an injection to relieve the pain but I remained fully awake throughout the whole thing.

I wish I hadn't stayed awake because I saw everything - the blood, the mess. It was very traumatic.

While they were doing the extraction, I told the doctor to slow down because I was in pain.

But he said he had to hurry so we could get this thing done and I could get out of there.

After the procedure, as soon as the local anaesthetic started to wear off, I began to feel an almost unbearable pain.

The hospital only gave me paracetamol to alleviate the pain. It wasn't nearly enough, and I was also bleeding profusely.

A doctor explains family planning to a woman in Kenya
A doctor explains family planning to a woman in Kibera, Nairobi

I felt that they hadn't taken care of me very well at the hospital. An abortion puts a lot of strain on the uterus and they are supposed to give you strong painkillers for that.

At 6pm that same day they discharged me and my friend came back to pick me up.

Two days later, I was still bleeding heavily and in a lot of pain. I went back to the hospital and had a scan, which showed remaining foetal parts that had not been properly removed.

Because abortions are illegal in Kenya, the doctor was in a hurry to do the procedure. I think that was why he didn't get everything out in the first instance.

They then performed a second procedure on me to remove what was left inside. It was hell. It felt twice as painful as the first one.

Difficulty conceiving

Looking back, I wish I had been given proper information about what having an abortion involves, about what the side effects can be.

It would have helped me weigh up the options.

Abortion should be the last option, but if it were legal at least it would be done properly

Now I am in a stable relationship with someone. We have been trying unsuccessfully for a baby for over a year.

I recently went to the local Marie Stopes clinic for fertility advice.

I was afraid that the doctors had removed my womb when they performed the abortion.

At Marie Stopes they did a scan and found that my womb was intact; but my fallopian tubes have been damaged because of the abortion eight years ago.

It will be very difficult to get pregnant without medical help.

If I only known more about how traumatic an abortion can be, I would have kept the baby.

Better to be a single mother than be in the situation I'm in now, where it's very hard to conceive.

Kenyan women are so naive about abortions. They go to backstreet clinics to have them and my neighbour died recently after having an abortion in one of the bad places.

The best thing would be if abortion were made legal in this country.

Abortion should be the last option, but if it were legal at least it would be done properly.

You can hear a debate about abortion - and whether it should be an option for women - on Tuesday 3 February's edition of BBC Africa Have Your Say.

Should abortion be an option?
02 Feb 09 |  Africa Have Your Say
Country profile: Kenya
04 Dec 08 |  Country profiles

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