I investigated how easy it is for girls to procure illegal abortions in Lusaka. at a Chinese clinic I paid 20,000 Kwacha (£2.50) and, after 20 minutes, saw a doctor whose room was empty but for a seemingly obsolete ultrasound machine in the corner.
I said I had missed a period and, without even touching me, she declared I was almost definitely pregnant and would need to pay another 20,000 Kwacha for a pregnancy test, nodding towards a row of grubby plastic pots lining the windowsill.
If the test was positive, she could terminate the pregnancy for 200,000 Kwacha. When I asked how, she shrugged indifferently. “What we always use – it works,” she said.
Next was a traditional healer, called a “witch doctor” or “quack” in Zambia. One refused me, so my colleague Mkosa, 28, offered to try a healer in the teeming City market, concealed behind mountains of over-ripe tomatoes.
Mkosa paid 20,000 Kwacha for a consultation with a healer who advised her to avoid hospital abortions, saying metal clamps are used to open the vagina and scratchy cotton wool used to clean the womb. She repeated common myths, such as clinical abortions leave women infertile and unclean.
For 250,000 Kwacha the healer offered to insert a herbal paste into her vagina, an hour after which an abortion would begin. Mkosa would need “cleansing” herbs for 50,000 and, if she had children, another 50,000 would buy a powder to mix with charcoal ash and drink to prevent her children getting ill.
The last stop was a drug store, located in one of the densely populated compounds that skirt the city. In Garden compound, three tablets of misoprostol were illegally sold for 150,000 Kwacha. For those with access to the internet, these pills can also be purchased online.
<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/journalismcompetition/illegal-abortion-in-zambia?newsfeed=truetag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.guardian.co.uk/journalismcompetition/illegal-abortion-in-zambia?newsfeed=trueMon, 21 Nov 2011 01:01:02 GMT”>Investigating illegal abortion in Zambia