Glenda's story: Why we're fighting to prevent unsafe abortion in South Africa

mother and child in South Africa
Cape Town, 1st September 2011: Glenda Bateman, a Marie Stopes International nurse in South Africa, saw the consequences of an unsafe abortion first hand when a young woman flagged her car down, desperate to get help for her 19-year-old sister.

The track was too narrow to drive down, so Glenda left her car and ran to find a young woman in a house. She was horrified by what she saw. Lying in agony, Nosipho had inserted a wire coat hanger into her cervix in an attempt to terminate her pregnancy.

Nosipho was bleeding heavily so time was precious. Glenda carried the young woman on her back to her car then drove her to hospital, where they found out that Nosipho had got septicaemia (more commonly known as blood poisoning) as a result of her unsafe abortion. Sadly, Nosipho had lost so much blood and the infection was so severe that she died. Nosipho’s other two other children now have to live without a mother.

Glenda explained: “Nosipho was prepared to take this risk with her health so she could finish her education, get a job and be able to look after the children she had already. I don’t want what happened to Nosipho to happen to anyone else.”

Unfortunately, what Glenda saw isn’t unusual. It’s estimated that around 47,000 women die every year because of unsafe abortions – a staggering 13% of all maternal deaths – and more than 245,000 unsafe abortions are estimated to have taken place in South Africa alone. Women all over the world use extreme measures to end their pregnancy either because the law doesn’t allow them to access safe services, or because they don’t know where to turn for help and support. 

Increasing access to voluntary family planning

Marie Stopes International is working to reduce unsafe abortion and its consequences by increasing access to voluntary family planning, safe abortion and post-abortion care around the world. In South Africa, nearly 170,000 women and men trusted Marie Stopes International to provide them with sexual and reproductive health services. As a result of these services more than 40,000 unsafe abortions will be averted, and many fewer families like Nosipho’s will be left to cope with the devastating consequences.

“For me, the most important change is that all women, from all walks of life are given proper access to the sexual and reproductive healthcare they need,” said Glenda.

You can hear the story of Nosipho from Glenda herself by visiting the Make Women Matter website

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