Getting around restrictions

There are many ways to circumvent Egypt’s legal limitations on abortion. One Cairo gynecologist explained a popular sleight-of-hand: “When a woman comes in with no bleeding, and an intact baby, then it’s difficult [legally-speaking] to do dilatation and curettage. So they call it blighted ovum medical syndrome. It’s a medical diagnosis, a pregnancy without a baby, just the sac of the pregnancy forms. It’s legal in this situation to make an abortion; we have a lot of blighted ovum syndrome everywhere.”


Medical advances offer new possibilities of getting round the system. Misoprostol, an anti-inflammatory drug routinely used to treat gastric ulcers and induce labor, is readily available in Egypt. It can also be used to induce abortion.  So one trick, according to this gynecologist, is for physicians in private practice to buy misoprostol from the pharmacy, at say, EGP20 a packet, stick it in an unmarked envelope and then sell it to patients for ten times that amount, instructing women to take the pills at home and come back the clinic when bleeding starts.