African Journal of Reproductive Health

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Disparities in abortion experience and access to safe abortion services in Ghana: evidence from a retrospective survey

John K. Ganle, Bernard Obeng, Joseph Y. Yeboah, Eva Tagoe-Darko, Charlotte M. Mensah


In Ghana, abortion mortality constitutes 11% of maternal mortality. Empirical studies on possible disparities in abortion experience and access to safe abortion services are however lacking. Based on a retrospective survey of 1,370 women aged 15-49 years in two districts in Ghana, this paper examines disparities in women’s experiences of abortion and access to safe abortion care. Disparities in rates of abortion experience and access to safe abortion care were assessed using absolute (the difference in rates between groups), relative (the ratio of rates between selected and reference groups), and mean measures. Results suggest that 24% of women had at least one abortion in the five years preceding the survey. However, large gradients of socio-spatial disparities in abortion experience exist. The majority of abortions were also potentially unsafe: 53% of abortions occurred outside of any healthcare facility. Women themselves and medical doctors, respectively, performed 57% and 4% of all abortions. The majority of women also felt they could not get safe abortion even if they wanted one. Together, these results highlight the need for concerted multi-sectorial strategies, including legislative reform and provision of family planning services, to help transition from unsafe to safe abortions. (Afr J Reprod Health 2016; 20[2]: 43-52).

Keywords: Disparities, Unsafe abortion, Contraceptive use, Family planning, Abortion law, Ghana
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