Despite ban in Nigeria, Ghana, search for abortion pills highest in both countries – Survey

Ultrasound session used to determine if a woman is pregnant. [Photo credit: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca]
Ultrasound session used to determine if a woman is pregnant. [Photo credit: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca]

While Nigeria’s abortion laws are some of the most restrictive in the world, the country ranks top among countries its citizens are in search of abortion pills, a new survey has revealed.

Nigeria and Ghana are the two countries with the highest search interest in Misoprostol, an abortion pill,  the BBC reports..

According to the BBC, data of countries who search for abortion pills the most was sourced from Google.

Misoprostol is a medication typically used as a combination therapy to bring about an abortion. This combination is believed to be more than 95 per cent effective during the first 50 days of pregnancy.

“How to use Misoprostol”, “Misoprostol price”, “buy Misoprostol” and “Misoprostol dosage” are among the most common searches around abortion, according to the survey.

The new survey puts to question the effectiveness of ban on abortions in countries like Nigeria.

Of the 25 countries with highest search interest in Misoprostol, 11 are in Africa and 14 in are in Latin America.

The BBC survey further revealed that countries with the strictest laws, where abortion is allowed only to save a woman’s life or banned altogether, have over 10 times higher search interest in abortion pill ‘Misoprostol’ compared to countries with no restrictions.

By buying pills online and sharing medical advice through WhatsApp groups, women are increasingly turning to technology to sidestep legal barriers to abortion.

While abortion is legal in Ghana only in cases of rape, incest, foetal impairment or to preserve a woman’s mental health, Nigeria’s abortion laws are stricter. Abortion is only allowed in Nigeria in situations where a woman’s life is in danger.

Nigeria’s Grim Abortion Statistics

Abortion is a controversial topic in Nigeria. It is governed by two laws that differ depending on geographical location. Northern Nigeria is governed by The Penal Code and southern Nigeria is governed by the Criminal Code. The only legal way to have an abortion in Nigeria is if having the child is going to put the mother’s life in danger.

The abortion laws of the Criminal Code are expressed within sections 228, 229, and 230. Section 228 states that any person providing a miscarriage (term it uses to describe abortion) to a woman is guilty of a felony and up to 14 years of imprisonment. Section 229 states that any woman obtaining a miscarriage is guilty of a felony and up to imprisonment for 7 years.

Despite the ban, however, according to the research conducted by the United States-based Guttmacher Institute, in collaboration with University of Ibadan (UI), over 1.25 million abortions are carried out in Nigeria every year.

The majority of such procedures are done in secret and mostly by unprofessional hands – traditional attendants and herbalists.

The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), put the number of deaths from unsafe abortions in the country at 34,000, adding that this has contributed between 13 per cent and 50 per cent of maternal and child mortality in the country.

Globally,  about 22,800 women die each year from complications of unsafe abortion, the Guttmacher Institute reports.

When an abortion is incomplete, medical professionals may either urge further medication, or a surgical option, depending on the situation.

According to experts, abortion becomes unsafe when a pregnancy is terminated by persons lacking the necessary skills, or when it is done in an environment without standard medical tools. However, in Nigeria it is illegal to perform abortion hence the search for alternative pills such as Misoprostol.


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