HIS demeanour was that of betrayal. The pain he felt as a result of his wife’s actions was clearly visible on his face. But Mr. Sunday Udoji has had enough. His patience with his wife of over ten years, Mrs. Adaku Udoji has reached its limits.
Mrs. Udoji committed abortion without his knowledge. Her actions led him to file for divorce at Ojo Customary Court, Lagos recently. The woman at the centre of this issue is remorseful about doing away with her unborn baby, but her husband is done with her. He wants her out of his life for good.
Mr. Sunday Udoji, an indigene of Anambra state lamented that it is a taboo for a married woman to commit abortion, and therefore, he is left with no other choice than to quit his union. He made this lamentation during the hearing of their divorce suit in court.
According to him, his wife of over 10 years committed abortion and fond of patronizing spiritual houses. He had always warned her about hopping from one prayer house to another, but his warnings were not heeded.
He told the court that one night when he wanted to have sex with his wife, he discovered she was wearing sanitary pad filled with blood and she had not told him anything about seeing her period initially.
‘’When I inquired why she was bleeding when she wasn’t seeing her period, she started stammering. I knew she was lying. I probed her further and she started crying. She told me she had committed abortion. ‘’
Mr. Udoji thought he wasn’t hearing clearly. He has been hearing about married women committing abortions but he didn’t know his own wife was capable of such actions and without his knowledge too.
He asked her to go for scan which confirmed that she recently committed abortion. He provided the documents that proved his wife killed their unborn baby to the court and vehemently asked the court to dissolve their union because it was an abomination for him to retain such a person in his house. He revealed that death would come calling if he didn’t act fast to dissolve the marriage.
While responding to her husband’s allegations, Mrs. Udoji admitted to committing an abortion, but refuted the claim that she wanted to kill her husband with her action. Her remorse didn’t mean anything to him even after she got her family members involved to plead with her husband.
‘’I am sorry for what I did. But my husband is just looking for ways to abandon me and our two children. He couldn’t even take care of us well, how can I then bring another child into this world to start suffering like my children and I are doing now?”, she asked.
She informed the court that her husband moved her things back to her parents’ home. Since then, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her nor the children. The couple pleaded with the court to grant them divorce based on breakdown of their relationship. Both parties were urged to maintain peace, until their marriage is dissolved.
Mrs. Udoji is not alone in her quest to keep her family small in this cruel economy. Many married women are regular visitors in hospitals just for the same purpose. Many of them say their husbands refuse to go for family planning treatments or agree to use condoms to prevent unplanned pregnancies, so they have also resolved to take matters into their own hands by resorting to abortions.
Mrs. Dupe Bello, a trader is a serial abortionist. She has aborted four unwanted pregnancies without the consent of her husband. She has been pleading with God to stop giving her children as she has had enough with the four in her home presently. So, she resorts to abortion any time she becomes pregnant.
“I know I have committed sin, but the burden of feeding an extra mouth with the hardship now made me decide to terminate my pregnancy. Life is too hard for my family. My husband is a driver who is not making enough to cater for his family.’’
While faced with severe hardship with the number of children they have, Mrs. Bello cried out with frustration that she is tired of killing her foetus, but with a husband who doesn’t believe in family planning, she has no choice than to keep evacuating her frequent pregnancies. She stated with resolve that if she gets pregnant again, she will still resort to abortion.
Mrs. Nwamaka Idigo has five children in her ten year old marriage. But recently, given the economic situation in the country, she had no choice but to terminate her sixth pregnancy, as she couldn’t cope with the additional mouth to feed in her already large family.
‘’I had to resort to abortion, as I could no longer afford three square meals a day for my children, nor able to afford their school fees. I don’t want another child. That’s punishment from God and not blessing.’’
But the opposite is the case for Mrs. Osagie whose husband was on her neck to terminate her fourth pregnancy because she had three girls already. He even resorted to beating her when she insisted on keeping the baby.
‘’My husband is the type of man that puts his feet on the ground that what he says must stand. I have no opinion of my own as his wife. To him, it is a must that I adhere to all his instructions including having an abortion. He always threatens me with either staying in the marriage or leaving with my pregnancy.’’
Having nowhere to go and no one to assist financially in raising her girls, she always gives in to his threat. She always makes the choice of choosing her marriage over having another child even if there is a possibility that she could have a son.
Mrs. Adaku Udo, decided to commit abortion because she got pregnant as a result of infidelity. She said that her husband no longer cares for her and their two children which made her get a boyfriend to help her out financially.
Along the line, she got pregnant and terminated the pregnancy immediately. Before her husband discovered the child she was expecting wasn’t his, she had already taken care of it. She feels guilty for doing that, but it’s the only way for her to survive.
A report released at the end of August last year by the Ministry of Health and the African Population and Health Research Centre revealed that up to three in five married women are having abortions.
In Nigeria, abortions are legal only when the mother’s life is at risk. However, the country faces low contraceptive prevalence, high rates of unwanted pregnancy, and it is estimated that 1 in 10 women had had an abortion.
Previous studies find that abortions are often performed in unsafe conditions, and over 3000 women die each year from abortion complications in Nigeria. And treating post-abortion complications has high costs for the public health system.
This may have come as a shock to many, because pregnancy in marriages is supposed to be good news. But these days, it turns out that not all pregnancies are received with joy. Some are received with muted shock and tears, kept a secret and terminated at the earliest opportunity.
The sobering reality is that married women also grapple with unintended and unwanted pregnancies. It is no longer the practice of single unmarried ladies alone these days. In fact, married women seem to compete with single ladies with their many abortion trips to hospitals, both good ones and quack alike.
A medical practitioner, Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye said a number of reasons could be responsible for many married women going for abortions these days. He outlined lack of adequate knowledge of family planning methods, not using effective contraception, economic hardship, pressure from spouse to get rid of the unwanted pregnancy as well as failure of some family planning methods, like the safe period counting and withdrawal method as some of the reasons these women resort to abortion.
For others, Omonaiye noted that it may be due to the fact that the last child is still very young and the attendant shame of conceiving too soon may drive a married woman to evacuate her unborn baby. Rape resulting in pregnancy may also be another reason for such action by married women.
But while these women may have legitimate reasons to commit abortions, Dr. Omonaiye warns that complications from such actions may be deadly. He said that complications from abortions include excessive bleeding, infection, womb perforation, bowel injuries, damage to the bladder, cervical lacerations, retained products of conception where remnants of the foetus and placenta are left in the womb, depression, and extreme guilt for doing away with their unborn children especially if the pregnancy has advanced.
‘’Abortions done by quack doctors remain the highest implication for these women. It may lead to death in some instances. Unfortunately, a number of women are either unaware of these implications or they just simply choose to ignore them just to get what they want”, he added.
A visit to a popular hospital at Iyana Iba, Lagos revealed that abortions could be carried out with N25,000 but it all depends on the bargaining prowess of the patient involved as well as the age of the patient. Further findings at the hospital reveal, there had been several women who have been through the process but keep a straight face as if nothing was happening there.
A doctor in one of the popular hospitals in Surulere, Lagos, lamented that the rate at which married women are committing abortions these days is scary. Many of them get pregnant from their illicit affairs and then abort them to avoid raising the suspicions of their unsuspecting husbands.
‘’Some women get pregnant from extra marital affairs and readily abort such unwanted pregnancies for obvious reasons. We charge them N30, 000 to get the procedure done here, but they are ever willing to pay and come back again for more.’’
Abortion is illegal in Nigeria except if is necessary to save the woman’s life. Convicted individuals can face jail term of up to 14 years. The restrictive law on abortion in Nigeria has brought about unsafe abortion.
An abortion is considered unsafe when the unwanted pregnancy is terminated by persons lacking the necessary skills or when done in an environment lacking minimal medical standards or both. The result is the death or permanent disability of many women.
Many unsafe abortions in Nigeria take the form of women engaging in self induced abortions using harmful substances, tools or objects to terminate their pregnancies. Some are forced to patronise quack doctors many of whom are semi literate.
In many cases, abortion seeking women are turned away from hospitals or clinics by doctors; many of whom due to personal religious convictions or fear of the law refuse to offer these women the services.
It is estimated that 40 percent of abortions in Nigeria are performed by physicians in established health facilities, while the rest are performed by non physician providers. Of all hospitals and clinics that provide abortions, 87 percent are privately owned, experts have said.
Accurate data on numbers of deaths or severe disabilities resulting from unsafe abortion practices in Nigeria is difficult to come by. improved access to contraceptives and related services could reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, they submitted.