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Opinions of Friday, 19 March 2010

Columnist: Appiah, Gifty Andoh

Free And Fair Abortion ?

In Ghana, there are so many pharmacies that anyone walks in to grab what they think will cure their ailment. Until recently in a TV3 news story, I didn’t know there was anything governing the administration of drugs in pharmacies which specifically states that every drug purchase should be done with a prescription from a doctor. Few do but it is either for very serious sicknesses or people who are extremely careful about their health. The practice has always been to walk into any pharmacy and get what you want .If you have my grandmother’s kind of mentality, buying drugs with prescriptions will sound extremely funny because experience has taught her that paracetamol cures all kinds of headaches and ‘G’ cures stomachache. It always worked for her and I’m sure she is not the only one in this.

I put together this write-up to create awareness that young people use this “lack of monitoring” opportunity to attempt all kinds of deadly self induced abortions and though we pretend not to know, almost all teenagers today are sexually active and the delusion of the Romeo and Juliet kind of love makes them do anything to keep a sexual relationship including having unprotected sex, though most of them are way too young for things like that. This write up is also in honour of my long lost friend who almost died as a result of a self induced abortion.

Her attitude anytime we spoke about sex, at our girl’s hostel, was, meant for us to know that she was very naïve. Being on my “top bed” as we called it, I would spend her menstrual days sympathizing with her because the pain it brings will not allow her out of bed and though it was a sorry state, I would laugh secretly when she ties her thigh with a scarf and shouts that the pain was moving from her waist to her legs. It was at a time when I was already schooled that people with menstrual pains are virgins and that as soon as they marry, the pain flies way like a liberated caged bird.

Very soon she started discussing a guy passionately and with time, we all became aware that she had found a boyfriend at last. In fact some of us were even jealous. Few months rolled by and rumors and gossips suggested she was pregnant, probably because she hadn’t been heard wailing from her menstrual pains for about two months. Being her close friend, I didn’t even buy let alone believe it. As far as I was concerned, she and the guy were not “sleeping” though they were so much in love. Besides she didn’t look anything pregnant. I was wrong. She only complained of heartache and I personally took her to the Korle- bu teaching hospital. What happened when she met the doctor, I can only imagine. I think something wasn’t working well somewhere because after sometime, she finally confessed, she really hasn’t seen her menses for the past two months. To cut a long story short, my dear friend was pregnant and abortion was the inevitable choice.

Method for the abortion

She started discussing the abortion with me. The only advice I could give was to always suck on a toffee or chew chewing gum so people do not notice since she was spitting everywhere. Bad advice it was. It worked terribly. She had her own plans and had already bought a drug with the inscription, “not for children below 6 years and pregnant women”. I thought to myself that if this works, then abortion is the easiest of tasks I have ever come across. Nobody cares which drug you buy and what you are using it for anyway. But the drug did not work. A second year Senior Secondary School student who already had a child and said she prevents pregnancy by mixing lots of sugar with Coka Cola for her boyfriend to drink before they have sex, prepared a mixture of “Akpeteshie”, lemon juice, and sugar, lots of sugar, for her to drink. When she woke up from her crazily drunk state, she was still pregnant.

She told me there was an expert she knew but the man knew her family members so she wouldn’t dare. Way later, I learnt it was a lie. She had already aborted a baby there and was warned not to come back because she might not survive. Yet in my mind, and I’m sure for most of the girls at the hostel, she was a virgin. So she made us believe.

Then they (she, her boyfriend and another friend) consulted a “witch doctor” whose first drug did not work to her own surprise. She was well known for her abortion toffee which does the job one time and so they were all surprised. Her second method required that the guy had sex with my friend to push the drug into her uterus and although she had vows never again, she had to and she did. The story was the same.


The witch doctor gave up but my friend begged her and so she was told that there was one last resort and that one was so deadly she would have to go home with it, drink and die or survive. The witch doctor was equally scared and would not admit her at her “witch doctery ”premises .At another friend’s house, she took the mixture and bled and bled and bled, until she was almost dead. The baby was still intact. Her mother finally had to be told and at that point, the fear was that, the baby if born could be physically challenged. Once again abortion was inescapable. She was taken to a clinic in winneba where I was told specialized in the trade and she had a “safe” abortion. She was to have a set of twins.

As I read about a reduction in unsafe abortions in Accra in the papers about a month ago, I remembered this story with a heavy heart and I wander the number of girls, ladies and women who are buying drugs with the inscription “Not for pregnant women” to terminate their pregnancies, those mixing paracetamol tablets and “Apketeshie” those consulting all kinds of spiritual mediums. Those who are grinding and mixing leaves of bush plant and “kawu” to insert into their uterus, those melting sugar and Guineas, and those trying broken bottles ground up with seawater and "Blue", a washing detergent to end the “unstarted” lives of others. These are not mere assumptions, people in rural areas who tried all these methods have confessed to a BBC reporter.

Does it mean therefore that abortion should be legalized? My answer is no because otherwise, I won’t be a living being myself. Legalizing abortion is not the answer because it will come with a cost and those who can afford will do it (which they are already doing anyway) and those who can’t afford, especially our sisters in the rural communities will continue doing what they know how best. We will still be at the same place if abortion is legalized. As for the many nation builders we loose from abortions, the least said about them the better because we already know the truth.

To think that these could go on unnoticed by either parents or anybody else until the situation is dire or when someone may already have been dead is overwhelmingly sad. Which is why I put this piece out so you will be on the alert for that young lady/woman near you and for the appropriate authorities to take another look at administration of drugs in our pharmacies as a matter of urgency. It may not solve the problem completely but some lives will be saved