Maternal mortality levels continue to rise in Africa, from 870 per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 1,000 per 100,000 live births in 2001 and still rising.
Mr. Speaker, it can clearly be seen that unsafe abortion takes its greatest toll in Africa. More than 30,000 African women die each year from unsafe abortion, often illegal abortion, which accounts for an average of 12 per cent of maternal deaths in Africa as a whole and 10 50 per cent in certain African countries. Tens of thousands more women suffer serious injuries, including infertility.
Mr. Speaker, adolescents suffer d i sp ropor t i ona t e ly f rom unsa fe abortion. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), incidence of unsafe abortion is rising among unmarried adolescents, especially where abortion is legally restricted and fertility-regulation services are inaccessible to young people.
Mr. Speaker, in 1967 World Health Assembly formally recognised abortion as an important health problem in many countries. Unsafe abortions form large percentage of maternal mortality and long-term morbidity. This level of unsafe abortion shows clearly the direct relationship with unmet needs for family planning.
Mr. Speaker, in a developing country, a woman faces a greater risk of 250 if she has to seek services from an untrained, unskilled abortionist. But this risk of death significantly reduces when women have access to safe, legal services as demonstrated in many countries.
Mr. Speaker, whether an abortion is spontaneous or induced, the outcome
as to whether safe or unsafe depends wholly on the quality of care received. The poor, socially disadvantaged, those living in remote areas, adolescents married or unmarried, refugees and internally displaced persons are most at risk. Almost all deaths and complications from unsafe abortion are preventable.
Of all causes of maternal mortality, unsafe abortion is the easiest to prevent. Safe, effective technologies for contraception, pregnancy termination and post-abortion care are underutilized. When performed by trained personnel in appropriate settings, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures.
Mr. Speaker, 50.5 per cent of the Ghanaian population is women and fertility rate is 4.2 children per woman. Maternal mortality ranges from 650/100,000 live births to 870/100,000 live births with national average of 214/100,000.
Mr. Speaker, women usually use cruel methods for the unsafe abortion, ranging from insertion of objects such as sticks, wires, knitting needles, et cetera, into the private part, drinking bleach, herbs, et cetera, physical abuse exerted on patient by another.
Mr. Speaker, Ghana's health systems spend enormous resources to treat women suffering complications from unsafe abortion, for costs that include drugs, medical supplies, hospitalization and personnel. Providing safe abortion reduces unplanned expenditure on emergency care and allows services to be scheduled.
Mr. Speaker, women are dying because of lack of access to family planning, lack of access to quality care, legal restrictions and lack of knowledge of the law.
Mr. Speaker, women are still dying not because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to
make the decision that their lives are worth saving. Women deserve the full benefits of the law, they must not be coerced into motherhood contrary to the laws, they must be guaranteed their freedom of choice after all options are presented.
Unsafe abortion kills and maims women but is totally preventable, but in Ghana we have the legal dispensation to eliminate deaths from unsafe abortion. To meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent -- we need to act now; we owe it to the 51 per cent of our population to stop them from dying unnecessarily.
The way Forward
Mr. Speaker, we cannot do new things with our old thinking. Ethical issues in abortion, is a controversial subject. This is because cultural, legal, religious and, of course, ethical contexts make abortion a divisive and sensitive topic. I pray that my audience exercise tolerance as we share ideas on this subject.
My Statement is not intended to engage in a debate about whether or under what circumstances abortion should be legal, rather it is to assist efforts to offer vital health services to the full extent allowed by the existing abortion law. I want us to look at the abortion law and amend it to establish legal abortion services at our health centres where women who qualify under the law to seek legal abortion could visit for safe abortion.