Dr. Fred Sai
Catholics For Choice mourns the loss of Dr. Fred Sai, who passed away on September 17 at age 95 in Ghana. Dr. Sai was unwavering in his commitment to women’s rights and family planning for stronger families. Catholics for Choice had the pleasure of working with Dr. Sai as a contributor to Conscience magazine. Throughout such collaborations, it was clear that Dr. Sai was a giant in the battle for reproductive rights, possessing a wealth of understanding and compassion for women. He also was an advocate and health provider eternally bound to the improvement of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Throughout his career, Dr. Sai was a man of vision, with an incredible ability to forge consensus.
As a young medical provider in Ghana, he realized that his infant patients struggled because their mothers were unable to control their fertility and space their children. In time, young Dr. Sai’s community-health work as a physician evolved, as he advanced as a medical officer with the Ghana government service to later become deputy chief medical officer.
During this time, abortion was illegal in Ghana, but Dr. Sai and other doctors risked their careers to provide family planning services to their patients. The year following a lift of the abortion ban in Ghana, Dr. Sai cofounded the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, and he continued to advocate for women’s ability to control their fertility even as he increased access to nutrition education in secondary schools.
Internationally, Dr. Sai changed the world for the better. In his roles at the United Nations University, World Bank, International Planned Parenthood Federation and beyond, Dr. Sai crafted environments where people with differing views could assemble and respect and accommodate such differences. He shepherded international meetings and conferences through potentially tumultuous discussions. Dr. Sai’s ability to forge consensus resulted in real change for women. His advocacy emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding for an infant’s first six months led to greater education and reductions in infant mortality. His work to reduce maternal mortality and support safe motherhood reached as far as it did wide. And his placement of family planning at the center of overarching ethical and policy frameworks within SRHR is the basis for how advocates leverage more rights for women today. Dr. Sai, our departed godfather of global sexual and reproductive rights, will be very much missed, but he will be honored by the continued work we do to serve the women he worked so hard to protect.