A study has revealed that access to safe abortion care in three regions of Northern Ghana – Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions – is impeded by clinicians refusing to provide legally permitted abortion services. It was undertaken by Global Doctors for Choice (GDC)-Ghana. The study’s design and implementation involved a wide range of key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, Ghanaian Health Service and representatives of professional societies of doctors and midwives. The study interviewed 213 service providers in public, private and faith-based health facilities in the three regions. Interestingly, a majority of the respondents demonstrated a high level of knowledge of the provisions in the abortion law in Ghana.
A recent stakeholder conference in Accra, also organised by GDC-Ghana in Accra, was carried out in partnership with Ipas-Ghana and the Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Ghana Health Service. A leading GDC member, Dr Chris Opoku Fofie, told participants the survey found that over 50% of the respondents (midwives, physicians and physician assistants) who had received training and had qualified to provide legal abortion care services, currently object to providing such services.
This represents a terrible waste of human resources and training. Why would so many people accept training they had no intention of using?
Unsafe abortion ranks high among the causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. Current data show about 15% of maternal mortality in Ghana is a result of unsafe abortion. The 3 Northern regions have some of the lowest indicators in various health care provider–patient ratios.
Ghana’s abortion law permits abortion by a qualified physician if pregnancy is a result of rape, defilement or incest, as well as the basis of a troubling health concern for the mother and/or the fetus. However, moral and religious beliefs against abortion among service providers are a major barrier.