Kenya is among eleven African countries with the highest internet searches on abortion pills, a BBC analysis of Google searchers showed.
Kenya’s position tracks after a global trend where online searches for abortion pills have more than doubled over the last decade—suggesting growing interest in do-it-yourself(DIY) abortion in countries where abortion laws remain restrictive.
By buying pills online and sharing medical advice through WhatsApp groups, the BBC reports, women are increasingly turning to technology to sidestep legal barriers to abortion. This is the modern face of the so-called "DIY abortion".
An abortion pill, Misoprostol, is particularly popularly searched globally according to the BBC survey.
Search engines are commonly flooded with questions such as "How to use Misoprostol", "Misoprostol price", "buy Misoprostol" and "Misoprostol dosage".
Misoprostol is normally considered a safe method of abortion when administered by a medical professional, when it is used by an untrained person it poses risks.
The drug that retails at Sh150 a pill in various chemists is highly sought after by those seeking home abortions.
While the drug is not sold over the counter in various reputable pharmacies in Nairobi’s Central Business District it is still widely available in other chemists.
The BBC notes that restrictive abortion laws and attendant stigmatization is a leading driver of unsafe abortions.
In Kenya, abortion is only legal for emergency treatment or when the life or health of the mother is in danger in the opinion of a trained health professional.
That however has not stopped thousands of women who look for unsafe termination of pregnancies.
The 2012 Kenya Incidence and Complications of Unsafe Abortion study estimated that 464,690 induced abortions were performed in 2012.
The study also estimated that 157,762 women received care for complications from induced and spontaneous abortions in health facilities public and private in the same year.
The cost of unsafe abortions is not limited to loss of life but also causes a huge dent in the economy once the personnel, medications and medical supplies costs of treating complications of unsafe abortion is factored in.
According to a 2018 report by the Ministry of Health and African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) Kenya spent Sh533 million treating complications of unsafe abortions in public health facilities
The report indicates that an average cost of a typical treatment stood at Sh4,943 Kenyan shillings. This cost varied from Sh3,264 for mild complications and Sh4,362 for moderate complications to Sh 9,133 for severe complications.
Most of the cost of treating unsafe abortion patients in public health facilities in Kenya was incurred in Rift Valley with Sh112 million spent and Western regions Sh83 million.
The APHRC and Ministry of Health Report also estimates that in level four hospitals a total of Sh 221 million is channeled to treating unsafe abortions while 83 million spent in level three.
Of the total amount spent,54 per cent of the total cost was spent in the treatment of severe complications.
The report based on data from 128 public health facilities, shows that it costs more to treat patients in Nairobi at Sh7,674 per person, than anywhere else in the country. These differences may be due to the cadres of professionals and choice of drug combinations in the management of unsafe abortions at facility level.