Peter Dadzie writes: Unwanted Pregnancies, Safe Abortions and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas.

‘‘Bible se, yɛnwo na yase ndɔre sɛ mpoano awea’’, translated as the Bible says let’s be fruitful and multiply like the sand on the seashore. A poor, unlettered, and unemployed woman residing in one rural area in Ghana in her mid-thirties erroneously quoted Genesis 22:17 to me when I asked her why she was pregnant with her eleventh child despite her vulnerabilities.

The quotation does not suggest that God commanded mankind to give birth indiscriminately just to increase the world’s population, but that is a story for another day. It is sad to note that, at less than 40 years old, the woman who incorrectly quoted Genesis 22:17 is already a grandmother because her first child gave birth at 15. This story is no different in many other rural areas in Ghana.

Most women in such areas lack information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including but not limited to family planning and safe abortion methods available to them. Economic opportunities for women in rural areas are also limited. This, therefore, makes some women in rural areas vulnerable and easy targets for irresponsible men. With prevalent notions in rural areas that the forbidden fruit is best eaten raw without protection, unwanted pregnancies are commonplace.

Beyond these misconceptions, recent family planning methods are scarce in rural areas where health professionals and facilities are minimal. It is interesting to note that abortion is considered taboo by most victims of unprotected sex in rural areas. Thus, those who choose to terminate their unwanted pregnancies do so discreetly using unapproved concoctions, leading to untimely deaths.

Dr. Susan Ama Amuasi, a public health expert and lecturer at Central University, was reported by the Ghana Business News on 14th March 2023 to have stated that unsafe abortions contribute significantly to maternal morbidity and mortality in Ghana. Available data from the Ghana Maternal Health Survey (2017) show that 20 percent of women aged between 15-49 (around 3.3 million according to data from the 2021 PHC) have ever had induced abortions, with a significant number reporting that the induced abortions were a result of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.

Data regarding the number of women who die from unsafe abortions in rural areas in Ghana remain sketchy, as such cases mostly go unreported or underreported. However, according to the 2021 Population and Housing Census by the Ghana Statistical Service, 16,135 women aged between 15-49 died in Ghana in the 12 months preceding the census, out of which 2,323 (14.4%) were maternal related. 15.4 percent of the maternal related deaths was recorded in rural areas against 13.1 percent in the urban centers.

Clearly, most women in rural areas need education about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning methods available to them and safe abortion methods permitted by law in Ghana. The government is urged to prioritize quality healthcare in rural areas. Rural women should not be left alone to perpetuate their family poverties with unplanned pregnancies or risk their lives through unsafe abortions. Every life, everywhere in Ghana, should matter to all of us.


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    • Akurase Mpuntuo January 6, 2024

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