Dr. Fred Sai was ‘a great giant’ in global reproductive health and rights field

Ipas is saddened by news of the passing of a dedicated and passionate advocate in the global fight for reproductive health and rights—Dr. Fred Sai, a Ghanaian physician and renowned international figure in the fields of family planning and population issues.

Dr. Sai co-founded the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana in 1967 and held many positions with Ghana Health Services, including director of medical services. He also had served as president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation and chaired two landmark United Nations conferences on population and development—those held in Mexico City in 1984 and Cairo in 1994.

In an article published in the Lancet in 2012, he recalled a childhood that was spent mostly with his mother and other female relatives—one that gave him deep insight into women’s lives. He also spoke in that interview about his experiences as young doctor in Ghana. He had assisted with autopsies, including many on women who had died as a result of unsafe abortions: “It was really heart rending that a young woman had to resort to unsafe abortion and end her life that way. I considered it completely inhuman.”

“The human rights and dignity of women and girls were at the core of Dr. Sai’s work as a physician and advocate,” says Ipas President and CEO Anu Kumar. “He never lost sight of the devastating impact that an unwanted pregnancy or an unsafe abortion could have on a woman, her family and her community. His mission was to give women and girls agency over their reproductive health and lives.”

Dr. Sai—who was an author and editor in addition to his work in medicine and advocacy—turned 95 this year and was honored at a celebration in Accra organized by the United Nations Population Fund. Even then, he did not fail to turn the spotlight away from himself and onto the need to keep advancing the global fight for reproductive health and rights. Progress has been made, he said, but more progress is needed: “We must not fail to sustain the gains that have been made.”

Dr. Koma S. Jehu-Appiah, country director for Ipas Ghana, says Dr. Sai played a unique role in the successful introduction of comprehensive abortion care and family planning services into the public health sector in Ghana. “The world of sexual and reproductive health has lost a real champion.”

Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah, former Ipas Vice President for Africa, who worked closely with Dr. Sai on the issue of preventing unsafe abortion, says he was “a great giant in the field of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. It has been said that ‘women make up half the sky,’ but we know that in Africa, women are the sky. And Fred Torgbor Sai recognized this long before it was an issue on the international agenda.”

Stay informed and inspired with updates on how we’re working globally to improve access to safe abortion and contraception. Learn more