Materia Medica Malaysiana

June 1, 2007

‘Open secret’ abortions

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:46 am

NST: YONG PENG: A young woman walks into the plain, blue shoplot which could have passed for just another vacant unit in town.Not long after, she staggers out — pale and wearing a sarong.
Those in the know would nudge each other — another unwanted pregnancy has been illegally terminated.
The abortion “clinic”, as it is whispered among locals, is sandwiched between a car accessory outlet and a workshop, within a row of nondescript, two-storey shophouses in the middle of town.
Located along Jalan Yong Peng-Air Hitam in Johor, the clinic has been operating for years and although it has no signboards, desperate women like Suraya (all names have been changed) have no difficulty locating the place.
Suraya, who held two jobs, had decided not to continue with her eight-week pregnancy, as she was having financial problems and going through a bad patch with her husband.
She had asked around and a friend told her about the clinic. She also found out that the general practitioner who ran the place had another clinic some blocks away.
Desperate, Suraya paid RM200 as a non-refundable deposit and confirmed her appointment for the next day. She was told that the procedure would cost her RM400 in total.
Suraya had expected it to be quick, painless and safe. However, as it turned out, the experience left her physically and emotionally scarred.
She had been told to take two white pills two hours before the procedure.
She then turned up at the doctor’s clinic at 8am with a friend, Latipah, who was to take her home after the abortion.
Suraya paid the doctor the remaining RM200. The doctor then took them to the shoplot. Latipah then left, after telling Suraya to telephone her when the procedure was over.
The shoplot had a presentable reception area with marble flooring and wood panelling on the walls.
The “operation theatre”, however, was a different story.
It was a makeshift surgery room with an old operating table, a stretcher, minimal medical equipmentand no proper lighting, except for standard fluorescent lights.
The doctor was assisted, not by a nurse, but a cleaning woman.
“Once inside the room, the doctor asked me to lie down on the operating table. She then secured my legs with a pair of stirrups and injected a clear liquid into the veins on the back of my hand.
“I heard her telling her assistant that the dosage was not working. I realised then that the clear liquid was an anaesthetic to block the pain.
“Since the anaesthetic did not work, I was alert and could feel the pain throughout the procedure.
“I saw her inserting a plastic tube, like a thin long straw, into me.
“I felt something jabbing and scraping my insides. It felt as if bits of my body were being drained into a vacuum tank.
“I gritted my teeth and desperately tried to block out the excruciating pain, which made me feel like a limb was being torn off my body.
“It was over in about 15 minutes but I was so weak, I could not even lift my legs off the stirrups or hoist myself off the operating table. The doctor and the cleaning lady had to lift me onto the stretcher. They asked me to rest. Then the doctor disappeared, leaving me with her helper.
“I rested for about 20 minutes and asked to go to the toilet. The toilet was filthy. I then telephoned Latipah to come and take me home,” said Suraya, shuddering at the memory.
Latipah said that when she turned up at the abortion clinic, she saw a trembling Suraya staggering out of the operating room, unaided.
“She was pale and trembling. I was afraid that she might faint.”
Suraya was in pain for several days, but, thankfully, she did not bleed after the operation. Nevertheless, she was traumatised by the whole procedure.
“It was a stupid thing to do. I regretted doing it,” she said softly.
Meanwhile, a worker in a shop near the abortion clinic, who wanted to be known as only Ayuni, said she would often see pale women staggering out of the shoplot about 9.30am.
When asked why no one had lodged a report, Ayuni said the locals preferred not to get involved.
“The abortion clinic is an open secret. Let the authorities do their job.”

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