The Dangerous Realities of Indonesia’s Illegal Abortion Clinics
Dessy Sagita & Ismira Lutfia
The high number of unwanted pregnancies in Indonesia can be measured by the mushrooming of illegal abortion clinics. And regardless of the number of accounts of women dying from illegal abortions, the “clinics” that offer them are still easily found.
In Central Jakarta, sometimes the illegal clinics find their clients. Females standing along Raden Saleh street are often warmly greeted by solicitors.
“You need a doctor? I’ll take you there. How many months?” an unidentified man asked a BeritaSatu reporter several months go.
With a flick of the hand, the man went away, but such open offers are frequently made to pregnant women.
One Indonesian woman, Maya (who declined to give her last name to remain anonymous), said that ten years ago she became pregnant unexpectedly while she was in her last semester of college.
Desperate, Maya met someone who claimed they could “solve” her problem. She was taken to a house in Tanah Tinggi, Central Jakarta, where someone offered to perform the abortion.
Maya said that at the time, she did not think of whether it would endanger her life or not. She only thought that her pregnancy should be put to an end for the sake of her future.
“I would do anything rather than continue the pregnancy,” she said. “Otherwise my parents would be very mad, I would have had problems with my studies and I would not have had a future.”
Maya said she feels relieved with the decision she made, though she also said she feels guilty.
Maya is now a university lecturer in a Southeast Asian country, has a child and lives happily with her husband. She said her life is settled.
“Everyone takes the wrong steps, or makes various mistakes,” she said. “What is important is the ability to manage the future.”
While Maya looked at her abortion as a way out, many women never recover after undergoing an illegal and unregulated procedure.
M. Nurhadi Rahman, an obstetrician who founded the “Save the Mother Movement,” said illegal abortions can be fatal.
“The most frequent complications caused by [illegal] abortions are bleeding, infection and womb perforation,” he said.
Nurhadi said that abortions can be a relatively safe procedure with minimal risk, when done by a professional such as a general practitioner or trained specialist.
Nurhadi added that abortion pills sold online are also very dangerous. “Wrong dosage can lead to mother’s death,” he said. In one case, Nurhadi said a teenager took a “very low dose” of an abortion pill.
“After consuming the pill, she suffered bleeding, but was afraid to see a doctor,” he said. Shocked, the teen eventually went to the hospital. But it was too late, and she died.
Because abortion is illegal in Indonesia, Nurhadi said that abstinence is the best solution to prevent pregnancies, and fatalities from illegal abortions.
“The facilities that are provided abroad in Australia or Singapore, where abortion is legal, are not available here,” he said.
Inna Hudaya, who founder Samsara, an organization that provides aid for women with unwanted pregnancies, said that women will stop seeking illegal abortions when the government provides adequate medical education and services for women.
“The high number of premarital pregnancies is highly correlated with the number of illegal clinics here,” Inna said.