By Caesar Kaba Kogoziga, peer educator at Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana
In one of the hospitals where I had my clinical practice, a senior nurse in charge of family planning shared her story with me on abortion stigma.According to her, she had been a leader in her church for as long as five years and many of her church members sought advice from her in those days on matters of faith. Even though abortion contradicts her beliefs,that was her work in the hospital those days. She was in charge of counselling people and preparing them for abortion.
One day, the daughter of one of the senior pastors in her church came in for an abortion. According to her, she was surprised and confused but that was her job so she had to do it. She thought of informing the girl’s parents but that was against the ethics of her profession. So she did her work but in a disturbed state.
Days later, her own pastor invited her into his office and confronted her,asking her why she helped the lady go through a safe abortion. The parents of the girl were also present and expressed their disappointment in her action. Stating that she should have known better since she is one of the counsellors in the church and people look up to her. They demanded that the pastor punish her for what she did.
In church the following Sunday, the pastor announced that she had been suspended of her duties until further notice. An experienced nurse that did her job well and also functioned very well in church lost her role due to abortion stigma.
Her pastor spoke strongly against the nurse in his sermon in church. According to her, this incident made her question her position as a believer. She felt guilty and shameful especially in her relationship with her church members.
Months later, a 19 year old and a member of the church died. It was reported that the young lady died due to an illegal abortion.
“Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that the lady but for the condemnation of her pastor would have visited the hospital for a safe abortion. Coincidentally, the only near hospital was the one in which I worked. Certainly, the young lady would not feel good seeking abortion from me again.” The nurse told me.
Abortion stigma has taken another life.
This story among others was the reason I decided to join the fight against abortion stigma.