Counterfeit abortion drugs risk lives. Here’s how we’re changing the game.

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Pharmacies play a critical role in making safe abortion more available. However, the difference between safe, effective abortion medications and counterfeit drugs can be the difference between life and death. For Dina Appiah, a young woman from Accra, Ghana, unsafe drugs from her local pharmacy put her life at risk.

Growing up, Dina received little sex education, but she’d heard rumors that contraception caused terrible side effects, so she avoided using it. Without reliable information, she had no way of preventing her first pregnancy at age 16. Others quickly followed.

By the time she was 27, Dina had four children and had experienced multiple unsafe abortions.

Dina, an MSI client in Accra, Ghana who sought help after taking unsafe abortion drugs.

Dina came to MSI for help after an unsafe abortion.

Unsafe abortion endangers women’s health

Abortion is legal under some circumstances in Ghana, but many health care providers don’t offer safe services. In fact, abortion is so stigmatized that Dina never felt able to seek medical attention. Instead, she bought abortion pills from a local pharmacy without knowing what was in them. When the side effects began to feel dangerous, Dina felt she had no choice but to cope alone.

“One time I felt like I was dying...I took the tablets and used the local concoction. I wanted to end the pregnancy but it wasn’t easy, my body was so weak... I lost so much blood during that particular one, I thought I would die.”

Increasing access to safe abortion care through pharmacies

Research from MSI and partners has found that in many low- and middle-income settings, a pharmacy is the first port-of-call for women seeking an abortion, like it was for Dina. However, without accurate advice, and referrals for after-care, Dina had no way of knowing what to expect or where to go if something went wrong.

At MSI, we’re working to make sure that women have access to effective medication abortion, and plenty of support throughout the process. That’s why we provide pharmacies with quality-tested medication abortion products and include information about our contact centers so women can access ongoing advice over WhatsApp, phone or social media.

Read more: Harnessing self-management to eliminate unsafe abortion

Ending unsafe abortion

Dina knew she couldn’t continue relying on dangerous unsafe abortions. Despite the misconceptions she’d learned about contraception, she visited MSI Ghana. A nurse answered all her questions and helped her choose the best method for her. She decided on an IUD, which will protect her from unintended pregnancy for years to come.

“Looking at all I have been through with pregnancies in my past life, I thought that when I chose the IUD that all will be fine, and it is OK, I am fine. … Without MSI I don’t know where I’d be, maybe I’d be dead.”

No one should die from an unsafe abortion. At MSI, we’ve set the bold goal of ending unsafe abortion by 2030 and ensuring that everyone who wants contraception can access it. Our work is making an impact: In 2019 alone, MSI services in Ghana prevented 107,000 unsafe abortions.

For Dina, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions are no longer part of her life. Free from worry about another pregnancy, she’s able to focus on building a better life for herself and her children.

Our Global Impact Last Year

32million

women using a MSI
method of contraception

13million

unintended pregnancies
prevented

6.5million

unsafe abortions prevented

34,600

pregnancy-related deaths prevented