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Abortion stigma contributing to rise in maternal deaths — PPAG

BY: Doreen Andoh
Ms. Abena Adubea Amoah, Executive Director of the PPAG, interacting with Mr. Daud Igbal, Country Director of Marie Stopes Ghana, after the forum on abortion
Ms. Abena Adubea Amoah, Executive Director of the PPAG, interacting with Mr. Daud Igbal, Country Director of Marie Stopes Ghana, after the forum on abortion

The Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) says unsafe abortion is an issue of public health concern and contributes significantly to maternal morbidity and mortality.

It says although the law permits the discontinuation of pregnancies under certain conditions, abortion-related stigma is deterring people, particularly, young girls, from accessing safe abortion services.

Speaking at a meeting to evaluate a project the PPAG instituted to help reduce stigma surrounding abortions in Accra last Friday, its Executive Director, Ms. Abena Adubea-Amoah, asked that  people stop stigmatising those who accessed safe abortion services to help save the lives of women and girls.

She said abortion-related stigma was a barrier to young girls accessing sexual and reproductive health rights.

The project is known as the StigmaFreeAbortionServices (StigFAS).

It was designed to help reduce stigma in order to create an enabling environment and supportive spaces for women and girls to access safe abortion services.

The objective is to expand access to stigma-free comprehensive abortion care services for women and girls to reduce needless deaths resulting from unsafe abortions.

Fear

Ms. Adubea-Amoah said stigma had led to many of such girls who feared being stigmatised to indulge in unsafe abortions.

She acknowledged that topics of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) such as abortions tend to be sensitive and so many would rather not discuss or contribute to it regardless of the impact it had on people’s health and general wellbeing, especially that of young girls.

“But the fact is that, it is with us and happening either the right way or the wrong way. This is why the programme meant so much to us. It prioritised helping to eliminate the stigma associated with abortion to help  particularly, young girls who fell victim to unplanned or unwanted pregnancies access safe abortion services.”

“Luckily for us, the laws in the country do not criminalise abortions per say. It has given enough room to be able to ensure young people who want to discontinue their pregnancies have the opportunity to do so.”

“It is this backing that we have that propelled us to launch and implement the stigma-free abortion project, what we call STIGFA.”

“For the past two years, we have been working on this project in Accra and Tamale in partnership with various stakeholders in the public and private sectors,” she explained.

Successes, challenges

Presenting some of the successes, challenges and recommendations of the project, a youth advocate with PPAG, Mr. Cyril Alexis Otabil, said more than 200,000 people had been reached through various social media platforms with education on SHRH, particularly on safe abortions.

He said more than 107 young girls were supported with financial subsidies to access different reproductive health services in Accra and Tamale.

Mr. Otabil said the project also supported the establishment of a helpline in Accra to give assistance to people who required it but did not know how to get SRHR services.

He said through the helpline, a total of 122 people were reached with quality information and referral services on SRHR.

“Redefining SRHR outreach for adolescent girls through an initiative known as the GirlBoss reached 879 adolescent girls, with 267 of them receiving one-on-one peer counselling and mentorship.

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