Expanding and Sustaining Safe Abortion Services in Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa through the Safe Abortion Action Fund

Photo by John Lazame Tindanbil

To create an environment where safe abortion services are more widely accepted, advocates lead a conversation with community members about the risks of unsafe abortion.

Photo by John Lazame Tindanbil

At a mosque in Ghana, community members discuss abortion, dispel myths, and learn the risks of delaying postabortion care.

Photo by John Lazame Tindabil

A group of midwives, trained by Pathfinder in safe abortion, gather to share their experiences. Their shirts announce their support for their work—which demonstrates their courage and the changing attitudes in their conservative communities.

With its third round of funds from the Safe Abortion Action Fund, Pathfinder builds on existing efforts to expand and create sustainable safe abortion services in Ghana, Mozambique, and South Africa. The overarching goal of this project is to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality due to unsafe abortion.


In collaboration with the Ghana Health Service, Pathfinder successfully scaled up comprehensive abortion care (CAC) services to five new districts where access to quality, safe, and postabortion care (PAC) services were previously not available. In all of these newly established facilities, close to 100 percent of the midwives and medical doctors received training and onsite coaching and are now providing high quality CAC services. The project witnessed a marked reduction in stigma as providers and managers no longer criticize young women who come for CAC services. Facilities also received equipment and financial support for CAC services. As a result of its successful work, Pathfinder was approached by managers of four remote sub-district level facilities in the Upper East Region where access to district hospitals is particularly difficult. Pathfinder supported these facilities to provide quality safe postabortion care and to institute appropriate referral systems to district and regional hospitals for cases with complications. This is the first time such services will be provided at the sub-district level in Ghana. The project also builds Ghana Health Service's capacity to scale up services in the remaining 15 northern districts where public sector CAC services are unavailable; the partnership with the Ghana Health Service has placed CAC squarely on the health agenda and the Ghana Health Service is now willing to take budgetary responsibility for these services.


In Mozambique, Pathfinder works at both the policy and service delivery levels in order to expand access to comprehensive safe abortion care. At the policy level, Pathfinder supported the establishment of an advocacy coalition, the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights. As a result of advocating with policymakers in Parliament and the Ministry of Health, the Coalition was invited to participate in the revision of the Mozambican penal code. The code was approved by the Governing Council in late 2011 and is expected to be passed by the Parliament this year. Other key Coalition activities included the organization of study tours of parliamentarians and Ministry of Health staff to Kenya and Ethiopia and establishment of “media champions” to ensure strong coverage of the issues being addressed by the Coalition. At the provincial level, Pathfinder collaborates with the provincial health directorates of Gaza and Inhambane, along with the Associacao Mocambicana de Obstetras e Ginecologistas, to increase the number of health facilities providing comprehensive abortion care. The project recently adapted a comprehensive safe abortion care training curriculum, which was then used in the training of 44 project-supported facility providers. Pathfinder also reinforced these project facilities through provision of needed equipment and supplies and through support of the implementation of the CAC/PAC guidelines, norms, and procedures. Finally, the project is planning activities with community-based organizations that will help to strengthen the linkages between communities and facilities for comprehensive abortion care as well as to increase post-abortion contraception uptake.

South Africa

In South Africa, Pathfinder works with the Eastern Cape Department of Health to build its capacity to improve access to and quality of youth-friendly comprehensive abortion care. There are currently significant social and structural barriers to accessing safe abortion services in South Africa, including stigma associated with abortion, misunderstanding of the legal status of abortion, few service providers, and limited supplies. Pathfinder is one of the few organizations providing youth-friendly CAC services in South Africa, and its comprehensive approach addresses the factors that prevent young people from seeking services and improves the quality of those services. The project’s successful integration of family planning is witnessed by the close to 100 percent acceptance of an FP method by clients who come for services. Apart from this, other services are also made available to clients such as HIV counseling and testing, sexually transmitted infection screening, and gender-based violence screening with appropriate referrals. The successful collaboration with the Eastern Cape Department of Health has led to the adoption of Pathfinder’s facility baseline assessment tool and expanded services to four sites: Empilweni, Nontyatyambo, Idutywa, and Elliotdale. Plans for this year include expanding the services to two additional sites and training more service providers to offer youth-friendly CAC services.



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Related Publications

June 2013

Securing Equitable Access to Comprehensive Abortion Care in South Africa: Technical Update

This technical update discusses Pathfinder South Africa’s experience supporting youth-friendly comprehensive abortion care service delivery in public sector facilities, providing recommendations for future such efforts.

November 2012

Driving Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health

In 2012, Pathfinder went where the need was greatest—the places where women, men, and young people must fight every day to defend their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This annual report explores our successes during fiscal year 2012.

October 2012

Support for Scale-Up of Comprehensive Abortion Care in Northern Ghana-Technical Update

This technical update discusses Pathfinder's global CAC approach and experience in Ghana, as well as the government's recent endorsement to scale up the approach in the north.

Related Projects

Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ghana

The Project aimed to increase the provision of ASRH services that could effectively attract young people, meet their needs comfortably and responsively and retain young clients for continuing care in eight facilities in four districts in the Volta Region.

Certification Strategies for the School-Based Program Geracao Biz

Pathfinder aims is to evaluate the strategies of the Geracao BIZ project, as well as transform the knowledge, attitudes and practices of primary school, high school, secondary education and technical education students in sexual reproductive health.

Community Health Worker Study

The Pathfinding Fund is supporting studies on innovative Pathfinder approaches in Mozambique; Pathfinder has been working closely with country staff to develop the CHW study and anticipates having results by the end of 2012.


Mozambique legalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

President Armando Guebuza on Thursday quietly signed into law a revised penal code bill that eases prohibitions in abortion regulations, a move hailed by health groups.

The Key to Youth-Friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

While a complex set of factors contribute to sexual and reproductive health problems among adolescents, these problems are exacerbated by the lack of youth-friendly health services and accurate information on safe sex and contraceptive use, says the International Women's Health Coalition.

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