Illegal Abortions Exact a High Toll Among African Women

Residents of Lebeko, a rural village in Lesotho prepare for the funeral of Nontsikelo Njuza. The 21-year-old died from complications of an illegal abortion. (Photo courtesy of the Njuza family)
Nomathemba Njuza will never forget the traumatic loss she suffered on Aug. 23 last year. Two young women showed up at her family home in rural Lesotho with their schoolmate, Njuza’s 21-year-old daughter Nontsikelo, who was in severe pain. Nontsikelo’s friends said their teacher had asked them to bring her back from school.

Mamofuta Kale | truthdig

Njuza called neighbors for help because Nontsikelo was suffering from piercing cramps and heavy bleeding. “I hired a van to take her to a clinic, and by the time we arrived, she was lying in a pool of blood,” Njuza says. Nontsikelo’s condition was so severe she had to be transferred to a hospital 30 miles away. She died during the trip there.

Njuza knows exactly what killed her daughter. On the way to the clinic, Nontsikelo said she had taken an abortion pill from a man she found on Facebook.

Nontsikelo was the victim of an unsafe abortion—one performed by an unskilled practitioner or in a substandard medical environment. Her story is a common one in Africa, where more than 4 million unsafe abortions are performed each year. One out of every 150 African women who have an unsafe abortion dies from complications, and countless others come away scarred physically or emotionally.

read more