Over the years there has been more advocacy for women's rights. Reproductive rights have not been left out in the quest to ensure the dispensation of human rights without any discrimination to the feminine side. One of the rights that has seen a lot controversy and debate has to do with Abortion. Abortion as defined by the Black’s law dictionary is the artificial or spontaneous termination of a pregnancy before the embryo or foetus can survive on its own outside a woman's uterus. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women In Africa (2003) made provisions in Article 14 (a) that explicitly states that women have the right to control their fertility. Yet this seems to have been drenched into a cosmetic without reflection in the life of most women in Ghana. More still, the law in Ghana has imposed sanctions to perpetrators of illegal abortion and limitations on the categories of women who can lawfully abort unwanted pregnancies to cases of rape,incest,defilement of an insane woman and finally in cases where the health of the mother is at risk.(See Private Hospitals and Maternity Homes Act, 1958 (No. 8))
Growing up, my grandmother once told me a story of a young girl who upon reaching puberty was warned by her parents saying “if you allow any man see you naked you will get pregnant and die”. One day the girl was seen taking her bath at the stream by a hunter passing by on his way home from the forest .She quickly got dressed and tearfully went home. Her parents upon noticing that the girl was sad interrogated her and gathered that the girl was pregnant. Once asked who was responsible she took them to the hunter who denied ever touching her, at that instance she tearfully rejoined “he saw me naked”. This tale is a metaphor of how opinions on abortion are based on dogmatic perceptions and stench beliefs in natural justice passed from generation to generation in our Ghanaian culture, leaving young ladies who find themselves in critical situations resorting to supplementing grandmother’s tale with induced abortions to save the day. In a recent survey conducted by Paul Appiah Sekyere on the Perception of Students on Abortion: in Senior High Schools in the Sunyani Municipality of Ghana proves that most of the teenagers are anti abortionists based on oral traditions passed down to them. This indoctrination incites a lot of fear to teenagers in an event of pregnancy leaving adolescents resorting to illegal means to take care of the issue without involving adults. “Teenagers who become mothers have grim prospects for the future. They are much more likely to leave of school; receive inadequate prenatal care; rely on public assistance to raise a child; develop health problems; or end up divorced".( Lowen)
History has it that Abortion originated from ancient medieval times and had been used by women to deal with pregnancies that they were not ready for or save the life of the mother. It was mostly associated with prostitutes but today the story is different
In Ghana it is estimated that there are “17 induced abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age” (Ahiadeke 2001:5). According to Guttmacherinstitute, a research institute based in UK , despite Ghana’s liberal law, as of 2007, a mere three percent of pregnant women and only six per cent of those seeking an abortion were aware of the legal status of abortion. Ms Jessica Malter, Senior Communications Associate of the Institute noted that almost 45 per cent of abortions in Ghana remained unsafe. Most of these cases remain unreported and our young ladies are wallowing in the shadows of death with induced abortions that are often unsafe. Is the law not enough to safeguard their rights from societal expectations, conventions and religious positions? Or is it ignorance of the current legal provisions that are causing the fatalities.
Can we safely agree with Dr Emmanuel K. Coomson of Takoradi Hospital who said placing limitations on who can have an abortion and within what period causes the strikingly increasing fatalities of unsafe abortions? My grandmother would disagree with Dr. Coomson; her reasons being that life would be taken for granted in contravention with Article 13(1) of the 1992 constitution if laws on abortion are without limitation. She would probably add that “Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right, it is the very opposite.” ― Pope Benedict XVI . Of course, pro life arguments solidly back grandmother’s tale with biblical principles and arguments that abortion constitutes murder, forgetting that pro choice arguments are just trying to prevent genocide of women through induced abortion. Although we need to protect the rights of women we should not throw reason out of the window, it is true that women in this day and age should be able to avoid unwanted pregnancies or in other words use contraceptives but if we are to reason even properly we would be doing women a lot of injustice if we deny them full rights to determine whether or not to have babies.
In the case of Roe v Wade the Court ruled that abortion must be permitted for any reason a woman chooses until the child becomes viable; after viability, an abortion must still be permitted if an abortion doctor deems the abortion necessary to protect a woman's health”. This has been a major precedent in deciding cases involving abortion rights, and a lot of countries have developed liberal laws to govern abortion yet recorded cases of deaths due to illegally induced abortions are constantly on the rise. If our leaders carefully examine the economic and societal hardships of the times we are faced with today they would be inclined to supplemented grandmother’s tale. Today our media confuses beauty with sexually explicit images, pornography is a fast growing industry and sex workers are finally being heared.Teenage pregnancy is rampant in our municipalities. The realities have changed and so must the remedies change to solve the problems. It is not wrong to introduce sex education in to our curriculum, and free our youth from the stigmatization associated with fornication. For all we know the only thing we fear is fear itself, we cannot continue living in the shadows of yesterday to the detriment of today. Besides what would you do if you found yourself in the shoes of a 16th year old teenage street child who ignorantly got pregnant and the law prevents you from having an abortion despite your economic circumstances. The ability of a woman to have control of her body is critical to civil rights. Take away her reproductive choice and you step onto a slippery slope. If the government can force a woman to continue a pregnancy, it only means she can be forced to do anything based on generally accepted customs. If it is about Abortion as a sin, that is a case of spirituality and not humanity because as generally accepted “we are all sinners” and should refrain from being judgmental. With no prejudice to the 21st century woman, we should examine abortion laws and supplement the parents’ warning to meet the demands of the woman of today and that should be the goal of all developing nations. Abortion should be a right and not a free ticket to death row through unsafe abortions in the name of humanity.
The word Women was used in this essay to mean all females of reproductive age.
2. Abortion Arguments from Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Sides & Main Points of Debate By Linda Lowen (http://womensissues.about.com/od/reproductiverights/a/AbortionArgumen.htm)
3. Act 29, section 58 of the Criminal code of 1960, amended by PNDCL 102 of 1985
4. Ahiadeke C (2000), Urban livelihoods and food and nutrition security in Greater Accra, Ghana. Washington DC, USA: IFPRI, 172 p.
5. Black’s Law Dictionary 126 (9th ed. 2009).pp 6
6. Compendium of key human rights documents of the African Union, Second Edition, Christof Heyns and Magnus Killander, Pretoria University Law Press, 2006, pp44.
7. Ghana News Agency Story 2013-02-02 (http://www.ghananewsagency.org/health/guttmacher-institute-creates-awareness-about-abortion-in-cape-coast-55841)
8. Roe v Wade (410 U.S 113(1973)
9. The 1992 Constitution Of Ghana Article 13(1) of a pp.12
10. Unsafe Abortions, Dr Emmanuel K. Coomson ,The Chronicle, 14th October 2013.