By Theophilus Chuma
For over 12 years, young women have trusted a man with their lives, as he conducts illegal abortions in a small room, turned into a surgery of evil in the high density suburb of Mbare. He holds the keys to ugly secrets around abortion, making him a contract killer for unborn babies.
A ZBC News crew went undercover to expose this crook, one in many who are fueling backyard abortions on young girls as young as 13 years old.
Our investigation was informed by findings from a study conducted through a research by University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences Clinical Trials Research Centre (UZCHS-CTRC), the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and the US-based Guttmacher Institute which noted that in 2016, there were an estimated 66 800 abortions in Zimbabwe.
What we wanted to know was who is supplying the abortion pills to support these clandestine activities?
We could not go openly as journalists and so we had to find a girl who is supposed to have been impregnated by me and urgently needs an abortion. Our meeting confirms our fears as this man is visibly drunk and yet insists the abortion can be done instantly. But how many illegal surgeries has he conducted in this state and with what results?
We agree to go to the surgery, a small room with minimum light, a bed and 20-litre bucket which we are told women sit and bleed out the dead fetuses. With our camera outside, our only means to gather information is through an audio recording that exposes the horror that these walls have seen and are seeing on a daily basis.
Then the worst part comes when he presents to us papers that we are supposed to fill in our details, which he claims he is supplied from one of the largest referrals in Harare (name supplied) together with the abortion pills.
Shockingly, we find that these abortions are done together with a woman whom we are introduced as the wife. Her job is to make sure she calms the patient and coerce into submission. It’s a shadowy underworld of unsafe abortions being conducted in Mbare, illegal yet thriving.
There are bandages, drip water bottles, gloves and stashes of pills. A drug is prescribed for us, rashly scribbled, but I manage to remember that it’s Misoprostol.
We are afraid of blowing our cover as we are now pestered for the full amount of US$60. Eventually we submit to the demand by paying US$10, which he pockets as consultation fees.
Reliving the moments in that room and the stress it caused in those few minutes, we can only imagine what the girls who have undergone the actual process have to live with. Abortion remains a hot topic in Zimbabwe with no agreed position on a standing law crafted in 1977 governing what is termed as safe abortion.
While the debate rages on, lives are being lost through unsafe abortions with revelations that clandestine abortions are contributing to maternal medical complications. In the wake of increasing teenage pregnancies, who knows if these unborn babies will live to see their next birthday?
Being a Christian nation, it may take time to openly discuss these issues. Already developed nations are battling with the idea of supporting abortion. Vatican leader, Pope Francis denounced abortion at the weekend, as similar to mob-style murder.
“Is it licit to throw away a life to resolve a problem?” he said at a Saturday conference in Vatican City. “Is it licit to hire a hit man to resolve a problem?” adding that abortion is never acceptable – even when a mother is carrying a foetus with birth defects or one deemed likely to die soon after birth. He said a human being is “never incompatible with life”.
“Taking care of these children helps parents to grieve and not only think of it as a loss, but as a step on a path taken together,” the pontiff said.
The pope has condemned abortion in the past, but also ordered priests to forgive women who have also ordered priests to forgive women who have had abortions. His comments came as the abortion debate in the US ratcheted up another notch.
As Zimbabwe considers its position, the United States has made clear its position through a bill making a termination illegal at as little as six weeks into a pregnancy which has become law in the State of Georgia.