Global Media Foundation, human rights media advocacy organization is set to introduce a safe abortion information platform to provide quick and adequate information on abortion and contraceptives to women especially vulnerable and hard-to-reach young girls in Ghana.
The initiative will offer the opportunity to the target groups to make voice call, request information, ask useful questions or send SMS and receive instant feedbacks on abortion and contraceptives from a Call Centre code named [Called Papa Ralph and Maame Esi] using toll free hotlines.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GLOMEF, Mr. Raphael Godlove Ahenu told The Chronicle in Sunyani that “unsafe abortions are becoming very alarming among young adolescent girls due to cultural and religious disapproval for safe abortion in Ghana”.
Mr. Ahenu said many women especially young girls now indulge in unsafe abortions because of the fear of stigmatization.
“Many young women who get pregnant before marriage decide to terminate their pregnancies to avoid the stigma that comes with getting pregnant without marriage. The unacceptable perceptions towards out of wedlock pregnancy and abortions in Ghana may result from religious beliefs of most Ghanaians”, he said.
According to Mr. Ahenu many women have narrated that they have had to use unsafe and unapproved means of aborting their pregnancies because of the fear of stigma that result from pregnancy out of wedlock.
Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated the level of unplanned pregnancies at 49 per 1,000 pregnancies in Asia, 72 per 1,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean and 86 per 1,000 in Africa.
Unplanned pregnancy rate in Africa was rated as the highest. Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also stated that in Ghana, 37% of all births are unplanned.
In Ghana, marriage before pregnancy is a cultural and religious expectation of adult women therefore pregnancy before marriage is seen as a dishonour to womanhood.
As a result of that, many unmarried women who get pregnant prefer to abort their babies to avoid any public spectacle and scorn
Mr Ahenu stressed the need for the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Ministry of Health (MOH) to adopt evidence-based public health approaches in educating women and the general public on the safe abortion policy of Ghana. This approach should concentrate on reducing maternal mortality and morbidity and harm reduction.
“MOH and Ghana Health Service (GHS) should disseminate information on its 2003 abortion policy amendment to health professionals and health programme managers. The regimen for medical abortion should be publicized to replace the ineffective and dangerous unsafe abortion methods practiced by young women especially vulnerable and hard-to-reach young girls”, he said.
In report on a safe abortion project implemented in Gomoa Central District in Central region by GLOMEF/AmplifyChange, women cited lack of knowledge on the abortion law and safe abortion services, socio-economic conditions, cultural and religious beliefs, stigma of unplanned pregnancy, a desire to bear children only after marriage, avoidance of parental disappointment and resentment, and a desire to pursue education as reasons for practicing unsafe abortions.
Mr Ahenu noted that unsafe abortion accounted for 15 per cent of maternal deaths in Ghana and also for 25 to 30 per cent of maternal deaths in leading teaching hospitals in the country.
That, he said, is impeding the country’s efforts at achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), which is primarily aimed at ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being by 2030.
Mr Ahenu expressed worry about the country’s abortion laws, which he considered relatively liberal and inaccessible for safe abortion services, and emphasised the need for the enactment of a legislation to permit adolescents who preferred to terminate their pregnancies to have access to safe abortion procedures at public health facilities.
He observed that traditional values, social perceptions and religious teachings created an enabling environment for quacks and charlatan doctors to carry out majority of the abortions in clandestine and dangerous ways; and, therefore, called for measures to enable adolescents to have access to quality antenatal care and protect themselves by obtaining condoms to prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies.
“We can no longer postpone sexual education for children and adolescents when they are already facing the realities by their poor sexual knowledge and risky sexual behaviours,” he stated.
Touching on some obstacles that adolescents face in obtaining contraceptives, Mr Ahenu mentioned unavailability, inaccessibility and unacceptability, adding that a number of sexually active adolescents currently do not use any modern method of contraceptive.
He again pointed out that one-third of all new HIV cases involved young people aged 15-24, adding that poor adolescent girls gave birth to impoverished children.
According to Mr Ahenu, teenagers who marry at an early age are mostly at risk of being caught up in the negative cycle of premature childbirth, high rates of maternal deaths and illnesses, as well as high levels of child under-nutrition. He called for the implementation of policies requiring the provision of accurate, age-appropriate and comprehensive sexual education for all adolescents.
Mr Ahenu appealed to the GHS to provide services to help address adolescent pregnancy and HIV, and called on the service to address a wide range of adolescence health and development needs.
Education on the Ghanaian safe abortion policy is a necessary step if the goal of avoiding preventable death from unsafe abortions is to be achieved. The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of GLOMEF, Eric Anorrey said Curricula changes, continuous professional developments and public health education strategies are necessary to enlighten health educators, students and the general public on the safe abortion policy of Ghana.
According to him, a good knowledge by health teachers could eventually trickle down to students and the general public. He added that other teachers in senior high schools, colleges and universities should also be involved in the education on safe abortion services in Ghana so that they can in turn educate their students.
Statistics from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) show that reported cases of abortion among adolescents in the then Brong Ahafo Region increased from 1,161 in 2015 to 1,224 in 2017.
That represented 12.7 per cent of the national figure, making the region the third highest region with reported adolescent abortion cases. However, at the national level, recorded cases of abortion among adolescents during the period decreased from 9,944 in 2015 to 9,612 cases in 2017.
The GlomeF CEO said statistics showed that 110,000 adolescent girls got pregnant in the country in 2016, with the then Brong-Ahafo Region recording 12,112 cases of teenage pregnancies, while in 2015, the country recorded a total of 114,622 teenage pregnancies, with the Brong-Ahafo recording 12,492 cases.