Exploring Conscientious Objection to Abortion Among Health Providers in the Eastern and Volta Regions, Ghana

John Awoonor-Williams , Ghana Health Service
Peter Baffoe, Global Doctors for Choice, Ghana
Mathias Aboba, Global Doctors for Choice, Ghana
Philip Ayivor, Global Doctors for Choice, Ghana
Harry Nartey, Global Doctors for Choice, Ghana
Beth Felker, Global Doctors for Choice, New York
Dick Van der Tak, Global Doctors for Choice, New York
Adriana A. Biney, University of Ghana

Few studies focus on the role of the clinician and barriers they pose to perpetuating the incidence of unsafe abortion in Ghana. Particularly, the refusal of clinicians to provide legal abortions based on moral or personal beliefs – conscience-based/conscientious objection (CO) – is an important subject to explore. Therefore, using in-depth and group interviews, we explore doctors’ and midwives’ understanding of the concept, its root causes, practice, and impacts on providers and clients. Results indicate that most clinicians did not understand the term CO. Its root causes originated from anti-abortion religious and cultural beliefs. CO was practiced by referring clients, counselling/convincing them to keep the pregnancy, or directing the client to buy medical abortion drugs. The impacts of CO on clients were complications and sometimes death, while with providers they included annoyance at getting constant referrals and stigma from colleagues. CO must be understood and regulated to reduce unsafe abortion.

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 Presented in Session 10. Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior & Reproductive Health 2