Following Ghana Women’s Voices and Ipas Ghana training for Pharmacists and Over The Counter Medicine Practitioners (OTCMP) in the month of February, 2015, a review meeting was held  on the 24th of November, 26th of November and 1st of December, 2015 in the Eastern region (Capital view hotel), Ashanti region (Miklin hotel) and Greater Accra region (Miklin hotel) respectively. The review meeting was under the theme are we saving women’s lives? This process aims at ensuring the participatory and inclusive spirit of saving women’s lives by combatting unsafe abortion in our communities. It was attended by over 100 Pharmacists and OTCMP.

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Participants broke into groups and shared how they have created access to safe abortions, highlighting on their successes, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. These are summarized below.

Their successes were they have successfully counselled clients and made effective referrals. After the referrals they follow up with the clients making sure they received appropriate services. They also educate their clients on family planning to avoid repeating abortion. They have also made sure the products are available and even some go to the extent of supporting some clients financially to make them access the services. They are now confident in making referrals and have absolute trust in the Ipas trained providers. Participants also expressed the inner joy they feel when clients come back to show their appreciation and also knowing that they are contributing their quota in eradicating maternal mortality in Ghana.

In spite of their successes, they however, face some challenges such as some clients having limited knowledge about their menstrual cycle. This makes dating of their pregnancy difficult and their provision of services unsuccessful. Most clients also come to them after they have tried several unsuccessful methods and it is already having a negative impact on their lives. Also, there are a lot of fake or unregistered products available on the market. It is also surprising that after all the education and prescriptions given to clients, some still do not take the medication properly. Most of the clients are financially handicapped. Most people are also not aware of Ipas Ghana activities in providing comprehensive abortion care. (CAC) towards preventing maternal mortality and morbidity. Some clients do not give feedback and documentations are also not done properly.

Participants also expressed the opportunities the training has given them. It has given them a bigger platform to change people’s perception of abortion. They use this opportunity to educate clients on the circumstances in which abortion is permissible in Ghana and where they can access safe services. This has improved people’s confidence in them and the stigma attached to their facility is also fading. They now have an opportunity to tell people during gatherings that the driven force behind providing safe abortion services is the goal which is to save a woman’s life and hence no other perception counts to them.

They pointed out that they are sometimes apprehensive about informing and counselling women about abortifacients. The reasons include the threats as follows; some of the clients come to their shops with self-prescriptions. Some of their co-workers do not have the requisite training and yet sell the products for their personal gains. Self-medication as a first resort by most clients. They are accused of aiding and abetting the practice of abortion (abortion stigma). Cultural and religious beliefs categorizing abortion as a sin. Some clients get misinformed by their peers and other family members. Drug peddlers on vehicles. The unfriendly attitude of health workers drives away clients. Most young people between the ages of 12-14 years request for medabon and the exorbitant charges of some practitioners.  

Ghana Women’s Voices in close collaboration with Ipas Ghana is making all necessary efforts to eradicate unsafe abortions and hence reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.