Abortion: Should it be legalised or not? …GHS calls for national debate

A total of 119,623 abortions were recorded in the country last year as compared to 123,767 in 2019, representing a decrease of 4,144, available data at the Ghana Health Service has revealed.
Out of the figure recorded in 2020, 8,026 were teenagers aged between 10 and 19 years while the previous year had 8,878 teenagers between 15 and 19 years having abortions.
Spontaneous and elective abortions accounted for 37,849 while induced and medical abortions accounted for 27,371.
Spontaneous abortions are miscarriages, while an elective abortion is the interruption of a pregnancy before the 20th week of gestation at the woman’s request for reasons other than maternal health or fetal disease.
The Director, Family Health Division of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Kofi Issah said it was time stakeholders come together to discuss abortion whether it should be legalised or not.
However he said “People would continue to use all means to get pregnancies out, sometimes these methods are not safe for their lives.”
He said many women have lost their lives or suffered severe complications as a result of using unapproved methods to get rid of unwanted pregnancies.
“There have been cases where some women only show up at the hospitals after complications set in due to failed attempts to abort the pregnancies themselves or after visiting quacks, unfortunately some of them arrive too late and lose their lives,” he lamented.
He said in Ghana, abortion is considered to be unsafe if it is carried out by an untrained person or done in a wrong environment.
Dr Issah made this assertion in an exclusive interview with the Ghanaian Times in Accra yesterday.
Throwing more light on the health implications associated with unsafe abortions, he bemoaned that chronic infection, excessive bleeding which could lead to organ failure, blocked fallopian tubes and infertility were among some complications that affected persons who resort to unsafe abortion methods.
However, Dr Issah expressed worry about the fact that many women who fell within the category, still preferred the unapproved methods of getting rid of pregnancies without considering the effects retained products of conception could have on them.
He said abortions could only be classified as safe and legal if the process was carried out by a qualified medical practitioner and if the pregnancy is as a result of rape, incest or if the pregnancy risks the life of the pregnant woman, threatens her physical or mental health or if the child could suffer from any serious physical abnormality or disease after it is born.
Dr Issah said legal abortion is supposed to be done only at government hospitals, a registered private hospital, clinics registered under the Private Hospitals and Maternity homes Act, 1985.
He said before an abortion could be carried out at a registered facility, patients are taken through counseling sessions, post abortion care and family planning methods referred to as comprehensive abortion care.
“Unsafe abortion is so dangerous, these women put their lives at risk, the implication is so high, some women come in with their wombs perforated, because when these quacks do a ‘trial and error approach when the pregnancy is old, let us say five months old, so they use unapproved tools to carry out the procedures,” he said
According to the Director, some medical practitioners who have not been trained or upgraded themselves in the field of gyaenacology, ended up in committing errors while performing, “ These practitioners fall under what we call less safe abortion.”
Dr Issah said untrained individuals who used dangerous tools, unsterilised tools, broken bottles and herbal concoctions could be put under the category of least safe abortion.
“We have non-health, herbalists, Druggists and those are hard headed people who think unsafe abortion is an avenue to make money. They can even come to your house and do it for you and when something happens to you, they do not care at all,” he said.
Dr Issah however urged women who could not abstain from sex to resort to the use of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

BY AGNES OPOKU SARPONG

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