Living in a country where abortion is illegal, many women terminating their unwanted pregnancies in Jamaica are using a pill meant to prevent stomach ulcers.

Cytotec- the generic name for Misoprostol- is supposed to be accessible only by prescription. But according to reports the drug is being sold in markets and pharmacies around the country. As reported in The Jamaican Gleaner:

The drug, sells for up to $15,000 JMD (approximately $176 USD) for a course of treatment, which is about the same it would cost to get a more invasive surgical abortion done by a medical doctor.

Demand for the so-called “abortion pill” has grown in recent years as women have learned about it from referrals or word of mouth. While the proper dosage for Cytotec is one pill per day, women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies take up to four or five pills in an hour. Without a doctor’s aid the women often take their instruction from the vendor, often non-medical professionals, that sell them the pill.

According to women who have used the pill, the tablets can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina but must all be taken at the same time. Within an hour, the woman bleeds out the fetus. One woman, “Alicia,” described her experience to the Gleaner:

Alicia recalled experiencing horrific abdominal pain which felt as if she were giving birth. This was accompanied by very heavy bleeding. All this began within an hour of taking the pills.

“A day and half later, everything passed out,” Alicia recalled. “Ten days later I went back to the doctor to make sure that everything was out.” She was then given a prescription that would prevent any infection from developing as a result of the chemically induced termination.
Alicia said she has not experienced any problems since. However, she says her stomach remains enlarged and her breasts have sagged.

While medical professionals officially denounced Cytotec’s use as an abortion pill, they also point out that it is often a safer alternative to the dangerous back door terminations women may otherwise resort to.

Professor Horace Fletcher, head of the Gynaecological and Obstetrics Department at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) pointed out that the drug has been used legally in hospitals to induce labor for over ten years. Because the drug does not need to be refrigerated, it is often used in developing countries.

Still, he says that women are putting themselves at great risk using the pill to abort their babies especially because these black market abortions are often done without a medical professional present. Warning women about the risk to themselves:

“It has been a cause of maternal deaths in some other countries as it can cause rupture of the uterus. It can also cause death of the baby from excess uterine contractions.”

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