Sunday, 13 March 2011 14:45 Editor News

Many Harare women are turning to traditional medicine to illegally terminate unwanted pregnancies as fees charged by medical doctors continue to soar.

Abortion is illegal in Zimbabwe and can only be done in cases of incest, rape or when the pregnancy has life-threatening effects on the mother.

But over the years some medical doctors have taken advantage of the many women desperate to get rid of unwanted pregnancies by charging between US$100 and US$450 for a safe abortion.

The exorbitant charges have forced many women including high school and college students who can’t afford such fees to seek alternative ways to abort the pregnancies.

A survey at Mbare’s Mupedzanhamo informal market revealed that herbalists charge as little as US$25 for an abortion.

Anxious to unravel the thriving underground industry, this reporter posed as a married woman who wanted an abortion after blaming an extramarital affair for her pregnancy.

The herbalist (name withheld) initially demanded US$65 for the concoction whose results “are instant.”

However, the herbalist had no problem reducing the fee to as little as US$25 after a brief negotiation.

Quizzed on the safety and effectiveness of his concoction, the trader maintained that he had a string of happy customers.

“Look at this book full of names of people I have helped, some to abort while others came for different ailments,” he said.

“My herbs work and so many people from as young as Form II students to people like you come here for abortion.

“I help them terminate the pregnancies.”

A woman who spoke on condition of anonymity said she had used the traditional herbs more than once and found them to be safe.

“There is this old woman who charges US$30 to terminate pregnancies in my neighbourhood,” she said. “The medicine is a concoction of different herbs and is very bitter.

“Normally it starts working an hour after one takes it and those who don’t know that you are pregnant would never suspect anything.

“I have done it twice and my husband has never suspected it.”

Douglas Mombeshora, the deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare said government was aware that illegal abortions were rife but accused medical practitioners, traditional healers and elderly women of abetting the illegal practice.

“The problem with these back- street abortions is that there are very dangerous,” he said.

“You will find that in some cases women aborting have their uteruses perforated in the process of trying to prick the foetus.

Mombeshora said the only solution was for women to practice safe sex and avoid unwanted pregnancies. However, he noted that eradicating the problem among teenage girls was a big challenge since they did not have easy access to contraceptives. Standard