Abortion and family planning

By The Statesman

On Friday 27th February, the Progressive Women's Movement held a workshop on 'Reproductive and Safe Abortion Rights". 

With almost 67,000 women each year dying from unsafe abortions, this is a topic that affects many of us and urgently needs to be addressed.

The chairman of PWM, Mena Mensah opened the workshop by welcoming Queens and Chiefs from surrounding areas, and presented her aim of educating them on the topic of abortion. 

In her speech, she stated,
"It is my belief that the reproductive health problems that persist in our communities will only be alleviated when individuals rise up to the challenge of making real changes in their lives…'

Throughout the workshop, speakers highlighted the importance of family planning.  Mrs Mensah mentioned that women are responsible for pregnancies and the easiest way to prevent abortion is to prevent sex. 

 She advised that if a couple insist upon having intercourse and do not welcome a pregnancy, then it is essential that contraception is practiced. 

According to research, only 16.7% of married Ghanaian women ages 15 to 49 use contraceptives.  And a substantially higher percentage of upper class women compared to the lower class have in place a family plan. 

In an interview with The Statesman, Reverend Mallet, Associate Minister of education at the Calvary Baptist Church expressed his Christian opinion on abortion. 

 He explained the benefits of counseling when family planning fails us; Pregnancies are often kept as secrets due to fear of rejection from others. 

Reverend Mallet suggested the importance of counseling in particular in the situation when a girl is raped.  In these times, distress and panic often fill the mind of the victim and prevent them from making rational decisions.

 He stated that he would not advice abortion in this circumstance; however he would never judge a victim of rape who aborts a pregnancy. 

He also stressed his belief that "Life is a sacred gift from God', and a child can often bring surprising joy to a family, even when they are unexpected. 

He highlighted society's responsibility to reproduce and posed the question, who can speak for the voice of the unborn child?

Nana Oye Lithur, Africa Regional Coordinator for the law and human rights organization CHRI also spoke at the workshop, particularly about the laws supporting abortion. 

 She told the guests how abortion is legally acceptable if the pregnancy is threatening physical or mental health, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.  However, even when the law does support a case, it is difficult for a victim to have access to safe reproductive health care.

She described the all so common situation, when a young woman becomes pregnant and turns to a herbalist as a quick, discreet and cheap way of ridding the problem.  In many cases however, the victim can become at risk of death due to the lack of professional knowledge.

95% of deaths through abortion occur in developing countries where services are limited.  It is therefore important that we address abortion not through judgment but through the eyes of the law. 

 We need to better recognize options before making decisions, and for those who need it, safer reproductive health services need to be improved, so deaths through abortion are prevented.