Abortion Deals: Pills sold like sweets on the streets

Raymond Jaravaza and Mashudu Mambo

ARE you aware of what your children are doing online?

A thriving business for abortion pills is booming in the streets of Bulawayo and the rest of Zimbabwe as the illegal drugs are easily accessible on the market with a simple click on social media platform Facebook. 

The market for illegal pills is open to anyone, even children, provided one makes contact with the individuals who advertise their services online. 

The Facebook page that advertises the services is called ‘Legal Abortions in Zimbabwe.’ 

For the record, abortions are illegal under the country’s laws.

Only under conditions of rape, incest – a sexual relationship between siblings or close relatives -, abnormalities in the unborn child, or maternal conditions dangerous to the well-being of the mother are abortions administered at law. 

B-Metro reporters went undercover in a week-long investigation that started last Friday by making contact on the Facebook page that advertises the so called ‘legal abortions’. 

The Facebook page has an option of connecting to a WhatsApp number, which curiously bears a South African phone number (+27 78111 ****). 

B- Metro established that using a foreign registered cell number on WhatsApp is a tactic used by criminals to avoid being tracked down by law enforcement authorities who can easily track down a person of interest using their cell number if it’s registered by a local network provider like NetOne, Econet or Telecel. 

The deal is agreed via WhatsApp

Once contact was made on WhatsApp, we asked if a male journalist, posing as a ‘client’ looking to buy abortion pills for his six-week pregnant girlfriend could be assisted and we were charged US$60 for the pills. When the pills dealer was told that the pregnant girlfriend was in Bulawayo, he advised us that a delivery would be made via a trusted ‘courier’ and an additional US$5 would be charged. 

The abortion pills dealer said he would explain to the woman intending to terminate the pregnancy over the phone how the abortion pills are used once a delivery had been made but to put his ‘client’ at ease, he sent a picture of the drugs on WhatsApp for re-assurance that the medication was readily available. 

The investigative team asked to be given a few days to get the US$65 ready to which more assurances were made by the dealer that he had the abortion pills in large quantities and after five days a female journalist posing as the pregnant girlfriend made contact again.

The delivery man

The Harare-based dealer said his ‘business partner’ would make arrangements for a face-to-face meeting where the transaction – cash for abortion pills – would be made and true to his word, a middle-aged man arranged to meet the female reporter at a parking lot of a popular supermarket yesterday (Thursday) afternoon. 

Without a care in the world, the man later identified only as Morris, handed a small package with six pills in total – three in a sealed package and three brownish ones that were slightly smaller in size – and was given the hard cash. 

With cash in hand and satisfied with a deal concluded smoothly, he advised the woman, whom he had no idea was a journalist, to call the Harare-based dealer for instructions on how to use the abortion pills. 

A local pharmacist was shown the abortion pills and he identified them as medication that is used for inducing labour in hospitals and clinics.

“These in a sealed package are pills that are used by doctors to induce labour, a medical practice done on a pregnant woman when the baby is overdue or when there is a risk to the mother or the baby’s health. 

“When administered for illegal abortions, these pills are dangerous and someone could die. Abortions are illegal in Zimbabwe for a reason and when done by someone who is not medically qualified, they can lead to fatal consequences or long-term health complications,” said the pharmacist who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

The Harare dealer later sent WhatsApp voice notes explaining to the undercover female journalist how the pills are administered. 

“There are three tablets in the sachet (sealed package) and two of the tablets are ingested by eating them like sweets and you must not drink water when ingesting them. Break the third into eight pieces and insert them into your private parts by pushing them in using the tips of your two fingers. 

He said that after inserting the pills, she must not use the toilet for three hours.  

“I also added three other pills that are not packaged and those are for cleaning your womb and you take them one at a time every morning for three days. 

“There are no side effects or complications, the tablets are very effective,” he claimed. 

When told that he had handed abortion pills to an undercover journalist, Morris pleaded with B-Metro not to publish his photo claiming that he had no idea what the package contained.

“Let’s meet so that you take back your money. You can also call the guy who gave me the package and he will tell you that I have nothing to do with abortion pills,” he pleaded.  

Commenting on the issue, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya clinical Director of Mpilo Central Hospital, urged the public to abstain from using misoprostol as it has harmful consequences when the patient is unsupervised.

“The unregulated and unsupervised use of the misoprostol drug is not recommended for the general public because it introduces delinquency and criminality to our children. Secondly, users can bleed heavily during backyard abortion attempts, resulting in collapse and death,” he said.

Professor Ngwenya added that these medications have long-term complications that entail mental health issues and a delay in conceiving.

“Thirdly, there could be infection and septicemia (blood poisoning by bacteria) that could result in post-abortal sepsis and death. There are long-term complications that include chronic pelvic pain, subfertility (delay in conceiving), and mental health issues,” said Prof Ngwenya.

 

 

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