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Ghana, Nigeria Rank Highest in Online Search for Abortion Pills

Over the last 10 years, online searches for abortion pills have more than doubled! And countries where the abortion laws are more restrictive have 10 times higher search interest than anywhere else in the world. In a report by the BBC, based on data from Google Search results, Nigeria and Ghana are the two countries with the highest search interest in the pill, Misoprostol.

Abortion laws in African countries are very stringent, not to mention the cultural shame that comes with seeking one. So, women who need the medical procedure are increasingly turning to buying pills online and sharing medical advice through WhatsApp groups, to sidestep the legal barriers and consequences.

Misoprostol, sold under the brandname Cytotec among others, is a medication used to induce labour and cause an abortion. A medical abortion typically involves taking a combination of pills, Misoprostol and Mifeprostone, to induce a miscarriage.

And while women in advanced countries or countries with friendlier abortion laws, such as the UK, will be prescribed this combination by a doctor, women in many African countries where abortions are banned or illegal are risking punishment by  searching for and purchasing the pills online.

Ghana and Nigeria, the two countries with the highest search interest in Misoprostol, have some of the strictest abortion laws. Ghana only allows abortions in cases of rape, incest, foetal impairment or to preserve a woman’s mental health and Nigeria is even stricter: abortion is only allowed in situations where a woman’s life is in danger.

The abortion laws of the Nigerian Criminal Code state that any person providing a miscarriage (term it uses to describe abortion) to a woman is guilty of a felony and up to 14 years of imprisonment, and any woman obtaining a miscarriage is guilty of a felony and up to imprisonment for 7 years.

Of the 25 countries with highest search interest in Misoprostol, 11 are in Africa and 14 in Latin America.

And despite the regressive laws, the research conducted by the United States-based Guttmacher Institute, in collaboration with University of Ibadan (UI), found that over 1.25 million abortions are carried out in Nigeria every year.

Google data doesn’t just show the countries where search interest is highest, it also shows how often exact phrases are searched for. “Abortion pills”, “How to abort”, “How to use Misoprostol”, “Misoprostol price”, “buy Misoprostol” and “Misoprostol dosage” feature in the searches in more than two-thirds of the countries on the list.

Worldwide, about 25 million unsafe abortions take place each year, according to the World Health Organisation, accounting for 45% of the entire number. And although Misoprostol is normally considered safe when administered by a medical professional, when it is used by an untrained person it poses risks.

At least 22,800 women die each year from complications of unsafe abortion, the Guttmacher Institute reports. You know how to make abortions safe? Legalize them.

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