Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Pharmacy dispensing of abortion pills in Ghana: experiences of pharmacy workers and users
  1. Mercy Nana Akua Otsin1,
  2. Kirsten Black2,
  3. Leesa Hooker3,4,
  4. Angela J Taft4
  1. 1 University of Education, Winneba Faculty of Science Education, Winneba, Central, Ghana
  2. 2 The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 La Trobe University Rural Health School, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4 Judith Lumley Centre for Mother, Infant and Family Health Research, La Trobe University - Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mercy Nana Akua Otsin, University of Education Winneba Faculty of Science Education, Winneba, Central, Ghana; Mercyotsin{at}


Background Self-managed medical abortions are generally safe; however, pharmacy provision of abortion pills is against the Ghanaian abortion law. Nevertheless, evidence shows increasing numbers of women use it. An understanding of the influence of the law on pharmacies dispensing abortifacients and women who needed hospital care after using these pills is lacking. This study aimed to address this gap.

Methods We conducted 26 interviews with eight pharmacy workers and 18 women who sought hospital care after using abortion pills. Study participants were recruited from private pharmacies and hospitals within the Ashanti Region of Ghana between June 2017 and March 2018. We employed phenomenology in analysing the data.

Results Results show that criminalising medical abortion care from pharmacies does not stop abortions but rather drives it to be provided without oversight. It also denied pharmacy workers formal training in medical abortion care, resulting in situations where they failed to provide correct dosage information, used their discretion in determining the price of abortifacients and to whom they would dispense the pills. For women, it contributed to limited interaction with providers and an inability to insist on their rights even in instances where the pills were sold at exorbitant prices.

Conclusions Due to the increasing numbers of Ghanaian women using medical abortion pills from pharmacies, although it is illegal, the ideal would be for medical abortion pills to be made legally available through pharmacies. Given that this may not occur in the short term, an immediate solution would be to upskill pharmacy workers.

  • Abortifacient Agents
  • abortion, induced
  • Abortion, Criminal
  • Pharmaceutical Services

Data availability statement

No data are available.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors MNAO accepts full responsibility for the work. MNAO designed the study and collected data. Data were analysed by MNAO with input from all authors regarding interpretation of the results. MNAO prepared the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to revising the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.