Safe abortion advocate calls for full implementation of Ghana’s Abortion Law

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Accra, Nov. 14, GNA – Dr Koma Jehu-Appiah, Country Director for Ipas Ghana, has expressed grave concern about rising incidence of unsafe abortion cases and has called for the full implementation of the Abortion Law.

     He said statistics from the Ghana Health Service indicated that unsafe abortion was the second leading cause of maternal mortality in Ghana, accounting for 15 per cent of maternal deaths, and also accounted for 25 to 30 per cent of maternal deaths in leading teaching hospitals in the country.

     Speaking at a day’s stakeholders’ forum on Tuesday on “The Medical Social Issues on Abortion” to commemorate the 60th anniversary celebrations of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Dr Jehu-Appiah said it impeded the country’s efforts at achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 primarily aimed at reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015.

     The forum organized by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) was under the theme: “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: The Emerging Issues in Ghana”.

     Dr Jehu-Appiah noted that although Ghana’s abortion law is considered relatively liberal, the criminalization of abortion, coupled with traditional values, social perceptions and religious teachings, had created a situation where quacks and charlatans carried out abortion in clandestine and dangerous ways.

     Legal abortion is permissible in Ghana on grounds of conception resulting from rape; defilement of a female idiot or incest; when there is risk to the life of the woman or likely injury to her mental or physical health or where there is substantial risk or serious abnormality or disease with the foetus.

     However, the termination of pregnancy ‘to save the mother’s life, in cases of serious medical conditions, including hypertensive disorders, renal failure, as well as obstetric emergencies such as acute haemorrhage in pregnancy, has been available in virtually all public and private hospitals in Ghana.

     Dr Jehu-Appiah expressed concern about the low use and inaccessibility of modern contraceptives and described as being a contributing factor to the high rate of unsafe abortion, adding “how many students can just walk into a pharmacy shop to buy a pack of condom”?

     Lack of sex education for young people, he said, was also a contributory factor to unsafe abortion as well as some parents are neglecting their responsibilities to their children in the name of economic gain and religion.

     He called on the government, parents and religious bodies to ensure that each played its responsible roles to ensure that Ghana’s high unmet needs of contraceptives was met by making condoms available and education intensified.

     Nana Oye Lithur, a human rights activist, and the Executive Director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre, who also spoke on the topic: “Abortion, Rights and the Law” said Ghana’s laws and policy framework were liberal enough, explaining that although there was no legislative instrument on comprehensive abortion, the GHS had adopted guidelines and protocols which were enough for comprehensive abortion care in Ghana.

     She attributed the increasing rate of abortion to the fact that young people were sexually active but did not practice safe sex and called for safe sex education for young people and the prosecution of perpetrators of rape and defilement.

     She criticized the Minister of Health and the Ghana Medical and Dental Council for being silent on the recent video released by Investigative Journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas on a quack doctor who was operating a clinic and performing unsafe abortion.

     She challenged the two to make public statements on this matter in which the quack doctor before the procurement of the unsafe abortion had unprotected sex with over 50 young women who sought his services for abortion.

     Professor Ken Attafuah, Founding Director of the William Ofori-Atta Institute of Integrity, who spoke on the main theme of the forum, explained that right to health, child prostitution and homosexuality were the main issues that needed to be addressed.

     He reiterated the need for intensified education on the abortion law and the need to bridge the low rate of contraceptive use.

     Dr Catherine Dawson-Amoah, Executive Director of PPAG, said a lot still remained to be done to surmount the challenges besetting the sexual and reproductive health in order to attain the MDG 4 & 5 as well as the ICPD goals.  

     She pledged PPAG’s support to remain unwavering in promoting the use of family planning in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, reduce adolescent pregnancies, promote condom usage and delay the onset of sexual activities among young people.

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