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Ipas mourns loss of two champions in Ghana

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dr. Joe Taylor and Dr. Richard Turkson

Two important champions for women’s reproductive health have passed in recent months: Dr. Joe Taylor and His Excellency Dr. Richard Turkson. Both had strong links to Ipas and were outspoken supporters of safe abortion care for women around the world.

Dr. Joseph Taylor, an Ob/Gyn, served as a consultant to Ipas for many years and also served as an advisor to the Ghanaian government on reproductive health issues. Recognizing that midwives live and work on the frontlines in health care, he was particularly instrumental in getting midwives trained to provide abortion care in Ghana and in developing the national strategic plan for implementing comprehensive safe abortion care.

In a eulogy she delivered on December 8, Dr. Ambassador Eunice Brookman-Amissah, Ipas Vice President for Africa, said: “Dr. Joe Taylor, in my view, has done more for improving maternal health in Ghana than any other Ob/Gyn. But his influence extended beyond Ghana. He believed strongly in women’s right to reproductive choices and what is more important, he practiced it.”

Indeed, when Ipas sought someone to travel to Bosnia to train providers, Dr. Taylor took up the challenge.

“I’ve seen many, many women dying and what is most tragic is that those who don’t die suffer disabilities that are lifelong and painful. Abortion is carried out in this clandestine and dangerous way because most people perceive it to be criminal and illegal,” Dr. Taylor said in 2007.

“He worked hard both for the public sector that employed him but also with the private sector that sought to support governments to deliver a better reproductive health package for women,” said Dr. Brookman-Amissah.

Dr. Taylor died on October 21.

His Excellency Dr. Richard Turkson, Ghana’s High Commissioner to Canada, believed in the critical role of African parliamentarians and other lawmakers in writing and reforming laws affecting sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“Dr. Turkson played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Ipas Ghana office.  The registration of our office here was the fastest ever in the region due to his diligence and he also supported the recruitment of the initial staff,” shared Dr. Brookman-Amissah, who also delivered a eulogy for Dr. Turkson on December 7.

She added: “In his usual ebullient and committed manner he seemed almost like Ipas staff. He travelled the length and breadth of the continent with us and represented me personally at several high level regional meetings and consultations. He was known to our partners all over the region including in Francophone Africa as he spoke perfect French.”

Dr. Turkson, who chaired last year’s “Keeping Our Promise: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa” conference, noted that Ghana was a very appropriate host for the regional event: “In 1985, long before the African Union adopted the Maputo Protocol and Plan of Action, Ghana amended its archaic penal code to considerably expand the scope of abortion permissible under the law. What now remains is to apply these rules vigorously to achieve our common objective, access by our women to safe, legal abortions.”

Dr. Turkson served Ghana—especially Ghana’s women and their families—as a United Nations delegate, Solicitor of the Supreme Court, and as an advisor and leader for Ipas, Planned Parenthood Ghana, International Planned Parenthood Federation Nairobi and the African Population Advisory Council.

Dr. Turkson passed away on November 23.