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By Machela Osagboro

“It’s like going to the shop to buy an item,” was how one woman described the ease of getting an abortion pill at pharmacies in Antigua and Barbuda.

“I was surprised at how normal it was to get this pill,” said another.

In the midst of the current debate in the country surrounding the controversial and, sometimes, taboo issue of abortion, OBSERVER media decided to mount its own investigation by visiting pharmacies to see to test how easy or difficult it was to get ‘a pill’ to terminate a pregnancy.

The conversation surrounding the issue has highlighted the divide in public opinion, with some outrightly denouncing the practice, while others point to the necessity of it for some women. Many women are moving from the more ‘traditional’ abortion techniques, like drinking hot Guinness, a hot Pepsi mixed with rust or a dangerous cocktail of organic roots that are meant to end an unwanted pregnancy. In recent years a large number of females have been opting to purchase the more ‘affordable pill’ and the practice is becoming commonplace.

I therefore embarked on my personal quest to find ‘the pill’. Nervous and apprehensive, I stopped at the first pharmacy on the outskirts of town where, to my surprise the pharmacist did not shun or treat me with contempt, but rather referred me to another pharmacy.

The second pharmacy, located on the other side of town, I found a very open and nonchalant pharmacist who was surprisingly conversant about the issue.

“I want to know if, I can get the pill. I am in a little trouble and a friend said I could come to you for help,” I stated.

“You have to be more specific, stop beating around the bushes,” the pharmacist said.

“The abortion pill,” I responded.

Without hesitation, he proceeded to ask me about previous pregnancies or abortions, and stated that the pill can be potentially dangerous. The pharmacist asked whether or not I had taken a pregnancy test and informed me that the body goes through a lot of hormone changes that may affect the efficiency of the pill. 

The man continued to ask other questions, as if I was asking for some very strong tablets to treat a migraine. At this point, I was very alarmed that a drug that is so potent and can have significant negative effects on the female body could be so easily acquired over the counter.

The pharmacist concluded by informing me that the pill would cost $350, but based on information I provided, I would have two months to consider before taking it.

The third pharmacy I visited, the pharmacist was very forthcoming and he seemed very concerned about my health. He asked very probing questions about my menstrual cycle, contraceptive methods used, my tolerance to strong medication and alcohol, and my general state of mind.

What was more alarming than the second encounter, was when he shared that, “if it is early you can buy a Guinness, heat it up on the stove, put a teaspoon of black pepper in it and drink. If it doesn’t work come back to me in three days and I give you the pill. That will give you contractions and help you to push the foetus out of your body. You will”.

The man also informed me that whenever took the pill, I should make sure that I take a painkiller along with antibiotics, as the whole ordeal is very painful. He warned that the process has caused infections in many women and urged me to be careful and less stressed about the situation as the whole procedure is doable.

Meantime, while describing their experiences with using the abortion pill, some women told OBSERVER that it could be taken orally, or be inserted vaginally. They said that this procedure caused severe cramps and contractions that simulate labour. They stated that the body will expel the foetus but bleeding there would bleeding for up to two weeks before the foetus is completely aborted from the body.

“Some of the tablets burst the placenta and some people have to go to the hospital to clean out the rest from the womb,” one woman said.

She added that in cases where the pill does not work well, the lining of the uterus remains in the body and may cause severe hemorrhaging. In these instances, the women would have to seek medical attention at the hospital, where a procedure called Dilation and Curettage (D&C) is performed to clean the uterus.

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