A 16-year-old girl is recovering from an illegal abortion she had performed, despite knowing that she could have had a free legal procedure done instead at her clinic.Sikhuphe Siswana,16, opted for an illegal abortion as she did not want anyone to find out about her pregnancy.Siswana, who lives with her family in Town Two in Khayelitsha, said she wanted to abort her through the back door because of the fear of the stigma of teenage pregnancy.Sikhuphe’s sister Sigcine said she’d heard rumours that her sister was pregnant and confronted her about them. Sikhuphe denied the rumours.“I did not want to tell my sister because I already had plans to get rid of the pregnancy before my family could become suspicious. Foreign doctor“One of my friends took me to a ‘foreign doctor’, whose services she normally used. The doctor asked me how far I was(with my pregnancy), and I told him that I was 12 weeks pregnant. He charged me R1 500 – R200 for the consultation and R1300 for the pills. Because I was desperate, I used my savings to pay him. He gave me six pills – two to take while I was there, and the other four to be taken within 24 hours,” Sikhuphe explained.“He said I should expect strong pains and bleeding for a week, and that the foetus will come out. He even insisted that I shouldn’t panic because the whole process will be painful, even though he didn’t give me pain killers.”As soon as Sikhuphe swallowed the pills, she started bleeding, she said.But when she started having cramps, she felt a sense of relief, in the belief that the abortion was happening. But the symptoms did not stop and she started experiencing headaches and lost strength.However, her sister Sigcine began to worry about Sikhuphe’s ongoing menstruation, which seemed to go on for four weeks.“She often also complained of cramps,” said Sigcine.Sikhuphe said: “I started panicking, because by then I knew something was wrong. I had no choice but to tell my sister and I was rushed to our family doctor,”.She said her parents were devastated when they heard she had terminated a pregnancy. The doctor treated her and explained to her that a proper abortion required a surgical procedure and that she should never “trust those fake doctors”.Lives at riskNurse Sphiwe Nkosi said teenage girls who opted for illegal abortions were putting their lives at risk.“Why pay for something that is free and available at some of our public facilities. The truth must be told. Back street abortions are dangerous, and for sure there is a big risk of complications afterwards because the people who perform them do it for money and do not care about lives,” she said.Sikhuphe said she was fully aware of the services offered for free at government hospitals but said she had already had one legal abortion and was therefore reluctant to go back again as she had been instructed to use condoms in future.