Pregnant Woman

A new study indicates that a woman?s socio-economic status largely determines how safe her abortion would be in Ghana.

Although Ghana?s abortion law is fairly liberal, unsafe abortion and its consequences remain among the largest contributors to maternal mortality deaths and injury in the country.

Inequities in access to safe abortion services keep unsafe abortion rates stubbornly high.

The study titled, ?Factors Associated with Abortion ? Seeking and Obtaining a Safe Abortion in Ghana,? by Aparna Sundaram and Associates of the Guttmacher Institute, a US-based organisation into advancing sexual and reproductive health globally through research, policy analysis and public education was made available to the GNA on Friday.

It found that while middle and upper income women in urban areas were more likely than other women to obtain an abortion, women who were young, poor or without support of a partner were at greatest risk of having an unsafe abortion and experiencing injury or death.

?As is too often the case, access to quality health services is being determined by circumstances other than need, with the less well-off experiencing the worse outcomes?, said Joana Nerquaye-Tetteh, a noted reproductive health expert working with the Guttmacher Institute in Ghana.

?The tragic reality is that many women continue to put their health and lives at risk to terminate a pregnancy, going to untrained providers or worse, attempting to self-induce. The resulting harm would be avoided if existing guidelines were actually implemented?, he said.

The researchers, who analyzed data from the 2007 Ghana Maternal Health Survey, found that wealthier women were three times more likely to have a safe procedure than poorer women. They also found that women who had financial support from their partners were more likely to have a safe abortion procedure.

A majority of women whose partners paid for some or all of the expenses had a safe abortion (67 per cent), as against a minority of women whose partners did not contribute (44 per cent).

Age was also associated with a woman?s ability to obtain a safe procedure, with adolescents especially being vulnerable to having unsafe abortions. Teens were 77 per cent less likely to have a safe procedure than women in their 30s, and 60 per cent less likely to do so than women in their 20s.

The researchers attribute this disparity to adolescents having less knowledge about where to obtain an abortion and poorer access to financial resources, and being more concerned about stigma and less likely to ask for help.

Previous studies have documented that even when safe legal options are available, the stigma associated with abortion is so powerful that it often leads women to seek an unsafe, clandestine abortion.

?Our analysis makes clear that there is an urgent need to develop and enforce policies and programmes to lower unintended pregnancy rates and improve access to contraception and safe abortion services, especially among economically and socially disadvantaged women,? said Aparna Sundaram lead author of the study.

The researchers noted other important factors that led women to obtain unsafe procedures, such as a limited number of qualified abortion providers and lack of awareness of Ghana?s fairly liberal abortion law.

They stressed that in order to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion and its harmful consequences, efforts must be made to de-stigmatize the procedure and educate women and the general population about the legal status of abortion in Ghana.

Source: GNA

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