GHANA

Saturday 31 October 1998

Unsafe abortions are primary killers of women between the ages of 14 and 44 in Ghana. Poverty and ignorance among people allows quacks to have a flourishing business. According to the health minister, approximately 1,200 women die each year due to this illegal practice. Worldwide around 20 million unsafe abortions are carried out each year resulting in over 80,000 deaths. The enormity of the problem can be judged from the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that of all the complications during pregnancy and child birth which cause death and disability, abortions are the easiest to render safe.

The crisis has made the Ghana government pull up its socks and it has begun to decentralise health services. Community-based midwives are being trained to deal with emergencies arising out of unsafe abortions and certain types of miscarriages, that could previously be treated only by doctors.

One of the factors which encouraged illegal abortion is the confusion over the abortion law in Ghana. The government had relaxed the law in 1985 allowing registered practitioners to perform abortions if pregnancy resulted from rape or incest and if the mental health of the mother is not normal. The law was open to wide interpretations and the doctors took advantage to make heavy profits.

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