GHANA – Pharmacy dispensing of abortion pills in Ghana: experiences of pharmacy workers and users

by Mercy Nana Akua Otsin, Kirsten Black, Leesa Hooker, Angela J Taft

BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 21 March 2023 (Not open access)


Background: Self-managed medical abortions are generally safe; however, pharmacy provision of abortion pills is against the Ghanaian abortion law. Nevertheless, evidence shows increasing numbers of women use it. An understanding of the influence of the law on pharmacies dispensing abortifacients and women who needed hospital care after using these pills is lacking. This study aimed to address this gap.

Methods: We conducted 26 interviews with eight pharmacy workers and 18 women who sought hospital care after using abortion pills. Study participants were recruited from private pharmacies and hospitals within the Ashanti Region of Ghana between June 2017 and March 2018. We employed phenomenology in analysing the data.

Results: Results show that criminalising medical abortion care from pharmacies does not stop abortions but rather drives it to be provided without oversight. It also denied pharmacy workers formal training in medical abortion care, resulting in situations where they failed to provide correct dosage information, used their discretion in determining the price of abortifacients and to whom they would dispense the pills. For women, it contributed to limited interaction with providers and an inability to insist on their rights even in instances where the pills were sold at exorbitant prices.

Conclusions: Due to the increasing numbers of Ghanaian women using medical abortion pills from pharmacies, although it is illegal, the ideal would be for medical abortion pills to be made legally available through pharmacies. Given that this may not occur in the short term, an immediate solution would be to upskill pharmacy workers.

LOGOS: Ghanaian Pharmacy Council