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06.11.2008 Social News

Unsafe Abortions Rife Among Teenagers

Research conducted by Pathfinder International (PI), an international non-governmental organisation, has revealed that the proportion of women aged 15-19 who had had an unsafe abortion in Africa, was higher than for any other region in the world.

"About 60 per cent of worldwide unsafe abortions are performed on African women under the age of 25," causing danger to their reproductive health, the research indicated.

Mrs Gertrude Ananse-Baiden, Assistant Programme Officer of Pathfinder International, , who disclosed this at a dissemination of a Youth Friendly Post-Abortion Care Project in Accra recently, noted that despite the prevalence rate of unsafe abortion among young women, few programmes directly targeted youth and adolescents with Post -Abortion Care (PAC).

The Youth Friendly Post-Abortion Care project was implemented in eight countries, including Ghana, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

It was to address unsafe abortion among adolescent women and increase access to PAC services in the implementing countries.

Mrs Ananse-Baiden said in this country the intervention measures included refurbishment of some selected health facilities to ensure privacy and comfort, regular monitoring and partnership with key management and service providers to introduce the PAC project.

Some of the achievements of the project included the improvement in capacity building of health workers, provision of logistics and the provision of modern equipment to some health institutions.

Mrs Ananse-Baiden noted that globally about 125 service providers underwent comprehensive skills-based training, and 180 facility-oriented, 6,691 youth and 7,988 community members and stakeholders were provided with information to carry out sensitisation.

Pregnancy and childbearing should ideally be confined to women within the ages 20 to 35 or 40.


 Biologically, these are the safest ages. Pregnancies in the early teens and the late 40s and thereafter are most risky.

In this country adolescent childbearing and pregnancy could be worrying. A study of 15- to 19-year-olds in the country indicated a large difference in the incidence of adolescent pregnancy between the rural and urban divides.


Not all of these pregnancies are intended and carried to term.

A study conducted in West Africa in 2000 estimated 30 per cent of pregnancies in the region ended up in abortion.


In Ghana, it is no different, about 30 per cent of unplanned teen pregnancies are terminated, mostly through unsafe methods.


Two in five unsafe abortions occur among women under 25 years of age and one in seven occurs among women under 20.

At the Youth Friendly Post-Abortion Care Research Project dissemination forum, Prof. Fred T. Sai, Presidential Advisor on Population Issues, Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS, made very grim observations on the impact of unsafe abortion on adolescents in this country and in Africa at large.

He said about one quarter of all unsafe abortions in Africa occur in women from 15 to 19, higher than in any other world region.

Some methods that adolescents employ to terminate pregnancies are the consumption of large doses of drugs of various kinds, insertion of sharp objects into the cervix, drinking or flushing the vagina with caustic liquids, massage of abdomen and womb and unusually harsh sex.

Prof. Sai said lack of knowledge, particularly of their body and its functions, and the socio-cultural circumstances in which sex takes place are the factors that make women risk their lives with unsafe abortion.

Gender inequalities also expose women to coercion and machoism in situations relating to sex, and when they are confronted with unintended pregnancies, they risk their lives and their reproductive health with unsafe abortion.

Public health facilities do not offer the environment that adolescents faced with unwanted pregnancies would comfortably turn to for help.

The majority of them, in that state, want to avoid hostile health staff. The negative attitude of health staff towards pregnant teens is worsened by the sin concept of sex and abortion as an even worse sin.

Prof. Sai stressed that young people need family planning information and services to prevent unwanted pregnancies so that they do not risk their lives through unsafe abortion.


This aside they should have access to youth friendly Post Abortion Care services managed by specially trained providers who deliver services in a non-judgmental manner, are comfortable communicating with young people on sensitive topics, and support informed choice.

Furthermore, he said, such services should offer privacy and confidentiality and be affordable or free for adolescent clients.