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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 12:59 GMT
Ghana's illegal abortions
Village in Ghana
Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 11 January 2007, at 1102 GMT
On BBC Radio 4 and Online

In Ghana abortion is illegal, but each year thousands of women resort to secret terminations and up to 68% of them are unsafe.

Abortion has been called "a killing field": it's estimated that as many as two-thirds are botched and large numbers of women are dying.

Unsafe abortion remains one of the leading causes of maternal deaths there.

Cases go unreported and statistics are rare and unreliable.

Official figures put the number of deaths due to unsafe abortions at 30% of all maternal deaths in the country.

For Crossing Continents, Rosie Goldsmith talks to the women of Ghana who undergo illegal abortions through fear, prejudice, lack of education and of money.

Women like Gloria. She lives in a village two hours from the capital Accra.

She has had two abortions in two years, but told nobody because she is afraid she will be thrown out of the community.

So she resorted to what she calls "traditional methods" to end the pregnancies.

She used a mixture of broken glass ground up with seawater and washing detergent, which she inserted into her uterus.

Gloria has been left in constant pain and will not see a doctor.

She has had no support from her church, family, village elders - or her boyfriend, who refused to wear a condom because he claimed it reduced his pleasure of sex.

This situation is being exploited by a large underground group of secret abortionists - by charlatans, quacks and even qualified doctors trying to boost their salaries. They are rarely caught.

Dr Joe Taylor, a government adviser and senior gynaecologist has seen "many, many, many, women dying" and is convinced that ignorance and greed are the main reasons illegal abortion thrives.

"The female pelvis," he says, "is a goldmine ."

Rosie Goldsmith talks to the doctors, lawyers and women involved in the business of secret abortions and asks how the situation in Ghana has got this bad and what - if anything - can be done about it.

Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 11 January 2006 at 1102 GMT and was repeated on Monday, 15 January at 2030 GMT.

Presenter: Rosie Goldsmith
Producer: Anca Toader
Editor: Sue Ellis

Crossing Continents


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10 Jan 07 |  Crossing Continents
'My illegal abortion regrets'
24 Feb 06 |  Africa
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