Illegal Abortions Exact a High Toll Among African Women

January 28, 2019 5 photos
  • Nontsikelo Njuza, pictured in her home village of Lebeko in rural Lesotho, died from complications following an illegal abortion last summer. She was a student due to take a school examination that would have determined her educational and career possibilities. 

  • Women prepare food on the day of Nontsikelo Njuza’s funeral. Njuza had been bleeding profusely last August and had been rushed home from school. Her mother had called the neighbors for help, but her daughter later died on the way to the hospital.

  • Village men gather on the day of Nontsikelo Njuza’s funeral. Because abortion is illegal in Lesotho—and women who have abortions are socially ostracized—Njuza had secretly taken an “abortion pill” provided by a practitioner she found on Facebook.

  • Like many others in Lesotho, Nomathemba Njuza used to oppose abortion on moral grounds, but her daughter’s death radically changed her attitude.  “Women and girls are in need of safe abortion to save their lives,” Njuza says.

  • Family planning groups in Lesotho used to reach out to rural villages such as Lebeko, offering free contraceptives and abortion counseling. Those efforts have been largely curtailed due to the “Global Gag Rule,” a United States government policy reinstated by President Trump.