Noemí's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.
I got pregnant for the fourth time in 1994 when I was 41 years old. My partner and I had been together for 24 years and we already had two daughters aged 17 and 22. I had experienced an abortion before, 17 years earlier.
This pregnancy was not a desired one. Where I was in life at that point did not include any plans of a new child – due to my age, my whole life situation, and the needs of my family.
I was determined and would not allow any interference from anyone. I let my husband know that my decision was to not have a new child, and he respected my opinion. We both knew the difficulties that we were facing.
At the time, abortion was illegal in Argentina, and its practice was clandestine. In other words, it was potentially dangerous to have a pregnancy termination, but if you could pay more, you were supposed to receive safer care. We were willing to pay a very high cost for this abortion, which meant we had less money in our budget for other expenses.
The gynecologist who performed the surgical abortion, summoned us to an apartment in an upper middle class residential neighborhood in Buenos Aires. My husband accompanied me the entire time. The doctor was the same one who had performed my first abortion 17 years earlier, but this was a different place. This one looked hygienic and well equipped. The gynecologist was assisted by an anesthesiologist. After the procedure I was transferred to a rest room for 2 hours and then I went home.
I had no discomfort or blood loss in the first 72 hours. After that I felt some back and hip pain when I moved my left leg. I called the doctor, but the assistant would not let me speak to him. The assistant told me that after the first three days had passed, it had to be something that was not related to the abortion.
My health worsened, and I went to the emergency room that was covered by my insurance. Since abortion was illegal at the time, I did not inform them about having had the procedure done. I was therefore given neuritis as a diagnosis, which was incorrect. They treated me with heat and intramuscular vitamin B12 injections.
Fifteen days later my condition was severe, and I was admitted to the hospital with sepsis and pus lodged particularly in my vertebra and hip. A staphylococcus aureus infection destroyed my iliac sacral joints and partially two lumbar vertebrae. Heavy doses of antibiotics and cortisone saved me from death.
I was hospitalized for three months and spent a year on crutches and physical rehabilitation. I was finally able to return to my normal daily life, although nothing would be the same after this experience.
Having an abortion, which can only be experienced by women, is made much more risky by its secrecy. By having an illicit abortion, I risked more than prosecution and what the cost of that could have been – I risked my life.