Attitudes towards abortion and decision-making capacity of pregnant adolescents: perspectives of medicine, midwifery and law students in Accra, Ghana

Luchuo Engelbert Bain*, Mary Amoakoh-Coleman, Kiswend Sida Thierry Tiendrebeogo, Marjolein B.M. Zweekhorst, Tjard de Cock Buning, Renaud Becquet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: Because medical, midwifery and law students in Ghana constitute the next generation of health care and legal practitioners, this study aimed to evaluate their attitudes towards abortion and their perceptions of the decision-making capacity of pregnant adolescents. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey among 340 medical, midwifery and law students. A pretested and validated questionnaire was used to collect relevant data on respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics, attitudes towards abortion and the perceived capacity and rationality of pregnant adolescents’ decisions. The χ2 test of independency and Fischer’s exact test were used where appropriate. Results: We retained 331 completed questionnaires for analysis. Respondents’ mean age was 21.0 ± 2.9 years and the majority (95.5%) were of the Christian faith. Women made up 77.9% (n = 258) of the sample. Most students (70.1%) were strongly in favour of abortion if it was for health reasons. More than three-quarters (78.0%) of the students strongly disagreed on the use of abortion for the purposes of sex selection. Most respondents (89.0%) were not in favour of legislation to make abortion available on request for pregnant adolescents, with medical students expressing a more negative attitude compared with law and midwifery students (p < 0.001). Over half of the midwifery students (52.6%) believed that adolescents should have full decision-making capacity regarding their pregnancy outcome, compared with law and medical students (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Tensions between adolescent reproductive autonomy, the accepted culture of third party involvement (parents and partners), and the current abortion law may require keen reflection if an improvement in access to safe abortion services is envisioned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care
Issue number2
Early online date28 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


This work was supported an Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate fellowship of the European Commission, Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorates 2016 − 2019 [grant number R/001275.01-08 to LEB]. We thank Abejirinde O. Ibukun for her in-depth review of the final draft of this work.

FundersFunder number
European CommissionR/001275.01-08


    • Abortion
    • adolescents
    • attitudes
    • law
    • medicine
    • midwifery
    • students


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