10 Powerful Photos That Captures The Morbid Reality Of Illegal Abortion

CAUTION: The following content may be distressing to some.

The multiplatform artist, Laia Abril, shares with us the dark side of life, things which are often left unsaid, and stories that are often left untold. She brings forward the sad and horrific reality of illegal abortions.

In her work, she uses photographs and text to describe how women previously had an abortion in the dark ages when they weren’t facilitated and did not have access to safe and legal methods. It covers techniques of abortion from the early times to the methods still used today in some parts of the world. Her work discussed in here is a fragment of an even larger body of work called A History of Misogyny.

Laia Abril talked about her research and her upcoming book On Abortion: And the Repercussions of Lack of Access when she spoke to Buzzfeed News.

Violation of confidentiality

In February 2015, a 19-year-old pregnant woman ingested abortive pills in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. She started feeling abdominal pains, so her aunt took her to hospital. After she was treated, her doctor called the police, saying he would autopsy the fetus if she did not confess to trying to abort. She was handcuffed to her hospital bed and freed only after paying a 250 euro bail. Denunciation by doctors is not uncommon in Brazil, Peru, or El Salvador. Women who are reported for attempting abortion can be detained in hospitals for weeks or months. Many doctors claim they are legally required to notify authorities when they suspect an abortion, in contradiction of professional codes of doctor-patient confidentiality. Laia Abril.


Laia Abril’s work revolves around lack of access and repercussions of abortion and how it is and has been affecting the world ever since the beginning. She says by “lack of access” she doesn’t only mean it legally but also means safe and free access. According to her each year 47,000 women die, and so many others are left permanently damaged and emotionally unstable. Along with them many are arrested, tried and blamed their whole lives and are deprived of freedom.

The body of her work is important because it sends out a strong message to the world, making everyone aware of this horrific reality, and emphasizing on the need for proper rights for all these women who suffer every day.

She says the photographs shown are not to be separated from their texts. They both as a whole make up the primary concept that will shed light on all the misunderstood and forgotten stories.

So, scroll on below and have a look at it.

Inducing labor by puncturing the amniotic sac.

Laia Abril

A three-dimensional cross-section of the body, showing a procedure performed by nonprofessionals using objects not intended for the purpose. In places where abortions are illegal, pregnant women tend to ignore their condition for as long as possible, thereby wasting valuable time. Illegal abortions are, on average, performed at some point in the second trimester. At that point, an instrument must be inserted through the cervix to puncture the amniotic sac. This induces labor, and can result in the embryo’s expulsion. Due to the lack of alternatives, women forced to apply this dangerous method for termination face serious physical injury or even death.

 Boiling bath, induced miscarriage, and superstitious methods of abortion.

Laia Abril

Taking a scalding bath seems to be a widespread method that has persisted for generations. One Sanskrit text from the 8th century recommends squatting over a boiling pot of onions, a technique also used by Jewish women in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s. As late as 1870, some abortionists would pull out patients’ teeth without anesthetic because the pain and shock was thought to induce miscarriage. Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), Dioscorides (AD 40–90), and Pseudo-Galen (AD 129–216) all mention more “superstitious” means of abortion, such as eating the egg of a crow, being bitten by a dog, or crossing the menstrual blood of another woman.

Condoms made out of intestines.

Laia Abril

The earliest prophylactics were typically made from catfish and sturgeon bladders and used until the 19th century. Cleaned, split, and dried lamb intestines were also popular. Since neither material is very elastic, such early condoms had to be secured to the penis with a ribbon. They were also expensive. After each use, the condoms were washed, carefully dried, and rubbed with oil to prevent cracking.

Travelling long distances for treatment.

Laia Abril

On Jan. 2, 2015, I traveled to Slovakia to have an abortion. I was too scared to take DIY abortion pills alone. What if something went wrong? So I decided to get a surgical abortion in a clinic abroad. I felt upset about borrowing money for the procedure, and lonely and frustrated because I couldn’t tell anyone what was happening. The hardest part was facing my boyfriend, who opposes abortion. All the same, I felt stronger and more mature afterwards.” — Marta, 29, Poland

Abortion is legal in nearly all EU countries, except Poland, Ireland, and Malta. In Poland, abortion is illegal except in cases of sexual assault, serious fetal deformation, or threat to the mother’s life. The official number of abortions performed in this country with 38 million inhabitants is only about 750 per year. According to Dutch abortion rights organization Women on Waves, the real number is closer to 240,000.

9-year old pregnant

Laia Abril

In November 2015, 9-year-old Inocencia gave birth to a baby boy in Nicaragua. He was the son of her own biological father, who had raped Inocencia repeatedly from the age of 7. Many countries, including Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Somalia, Congo, Egypt, Iran, and Lebanon, do not consider rape a legitimate reason to abort and permit abortion only when the mother’s life is at risk. Stricter still, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Malta, and the Vatican are the five nations in the world where abortion is prohibited under any circumstance.

Use of dangerous instruments

Laia Abril

In places where abortion is illegal, certain medical instruments can be a giveaway. For this reason, specific supplies have rarely been developed or sold for this procedure. Instead, doctors, backstreet abortionists, and pregnant women turn to common household tools: knitting needles, wire clothes hangers, urinary catheters, and a wide variety of other objects long enough to reach into the uterus.

Inducing miscarriage using herbs

Laia Abril

The infusion of local plants ruda and chipilin are used by Salvadorean women to abort during the first trimester. There has been an endless list of oral drugs thought to induce miscarriage, since before the time of Hippocrates. A few examples include: clover mixed with white wine, squirting cucumber, stinking iris, slippery elm, brewer’s yeast, melon, wild carrot, aloe, papaya, crushed ants, camel hair, lead, belladonna, quinine, and pomegranate; alternatively, self-starvation.

Piercing through the amniotic sac using sharp objects

Laia Abril

Early termination of pregnancy is forbidden in nearly every country in Africa due to the restrictive laws of former colonial rule. For this reason, abortions are either carried out by lay abortionists or by women who are left to their own devices. To this end, the amniotic sac is pierced between the fourth and fifth month of pregnancy. The ensuing discharge of amniotic fluid forces the birth of a dead embryo within two to three days. Sharp objects are used in the process, such as branches or long thorns. Piercing the amniotic sac often leads to complications, such as heavy bleeding and/or life-threatening infections. With luck, women are able to arrive at a hospital in time to take care of the situation.

‘Life-saving’ machines

Laia Abril

On Nov. 27, 2014, an Irish woman in her twenties was admitted to the hospital with headaches and nausea. Two days later, the mother of two suffered a fall and was later found unresponsive. On Dec. 9, she was declared clinically brain dead. She was 15 weeks pregnant at the time and was placed on life support against her family’s wishes. On Dec. 26, the Irish High Court ruled that the life-support machine could be turned off after hearing that her fetus had little chance of surviving.

In Ireland, abortion is illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother. Under the 1983 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, an unborn child has the same rights as its mother.

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