Stakeholders in the health sector are calling on the government and non-governmental partners to reduce the burden of unsafe abortion by educating the public on the country’s abortion laws.
Abortion is permissible in cases of rape, incest, foetal abnormality or disease, or defilement of a child, or if they are performed to protect physical or mental health.
However, such persons are to receive medical attention from registered and trained personnel in an approved health facility.
The stakeholders were the Guttmacher Institute (a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States), John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
They were supported by the Marie Stopes International, and Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana.
The stakeholders made the call on Tuesday, at a workshop in Accra to present the findings on a research conducted in 2017 to ascertain the incidence of abortions in Ghana, at the national and zonal estimates, using the ‘Abortion Incidence Complications Methodology” (AICM).
Dr. Easmon Otupiri, School of Public Health, KNUST, said many women in Ghana sought illegal abortions, which varied widely in terms of safety, adding that, unsafe abortions contributed substantially to Ghana’s high maternal mortality, which was estimated at 310 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017.
In 1.4 million pregnancies in 2017, he said, there were 39 per cent births, and eight per cent miscarriages, as against 23 per cent of births, 23 per cent of abortions, and seven per cent of miscarriages in unintended pregnancies.
Nationally, he said 767,200 of all pregnancies, thus 53 per cent, were unintended each year.
Dr Otupiri said however, the unintended pregnancy rate varied widely across the country’s three ecological zones from 50 in the Northern zone to 94 in the Coastal zone and 131 in the Middle zone, a situation that made abortion rates also vary in the respective zones.
Dr Sarah Keogh, a Senior Research Scientist, Guttmacher Institute, said nationally, 70.8 per cent of all abortions done in Ghana were illegal and the stakeholders after the research, estimated that 25.5 per cent of women who had an illegal induced abortion in Ghana in 2017 received treatment for complications in a health facility.
The AICM also estimated that 5.7 per 1000 Ghanaian women aged 15 to 49 obtained treatments at a facility for complications resulting from illegal or legal abortions.
Despite Ghana’s relatively liberal abortion law, and efforts to expand access to safe abortion services, Dr Keogh said, it was unfortunate that 71 per cent of the nearly 200,000 abortions in Ghana recorded in 2017 were illegal.
This brought serious health implications and deaths on those involved, she said, and called on government and its stakeholders to expand access to safe, legal abortion services and post abortion care by increasing the number of trained providers and approved facilities that offered these services to reduce complications and deaths from unsafe abortions.
They were also entreated to train lower-level health care workers to provide comprehensive abortion care services and improve contraceptive services through offering wide range of methods and counseling services for women to prevent unintended pregnancies.
Dr. Kofi Issah, the Director of Family Health Division, Ghana Health Service, who chaired the workshop, said illegal abortion was a problem of concern in both developed and under developed countries.
He called for strong advocacy to encourage the government and relevant stakeholders to provide structural and functional support to discourage illegal and unsafe abortion.