Abortion is legal in Zambia, but only with the permission of three doctors. There was no doctor in any of villages we visited and I learned that there was only one doctor in the entire district center. Therefore, legal abortion was not a reality for the women we met…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, it just means that it is not done safely.
Halfway through the training of the Ngabwe SMAGs the MCH coordinator was called to check in on a woman who was suffering from an incomplete abortion. She was in extraordinary pain and in serious danger of death. However, without a working pontoon, it was impossible to safely transport her to the health center across the river. We send her to the next closest health center, Mukubwe, which is over 1.5 hours by vehicle.
By the time we returned to Mukubwe that evening, she had not progressed, but fortunately, she was not worse either. As I walked into our room, the MCH coordinator was pouring over books, trying to figure out what to do next – with no doctor and limited medicines, there are not many options. The sad reality for so many women here.
The following day – she still had not progressed and we decided to drive her to the district hospital – a short 6 hours on a bumpy, dirt road. We dropped her off at the hospital, but with no money I have no idea how she will get back to her village when she is better….