As part of Marie Stopes International’s #makewomenmatter campaign, we’re taking a look at abortions in South Africa and why it’s so important to make the safe and legal choice. That’s right: in our country, abortions are legal, which means there’s no reason to jeopardise your health, and possibly your life, by choosing the illegal route.
As a South African woman, you are empowered to take charge of your reproductive health and improve your life through the freedom of choice – so make the safe choice! If you or someone you care about is considering an abortion, here’s what you need to know.
Q: Is abortion legal in South Africa?
A: Yes! In South Africa, abortion is legal up until the 20th week of pregnancy, according to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (1996). After the 20th week, a woman may only have an abortion if the pregnancy is endangering her life, or if she is carrying a severely malformed foetus. In South Africa, legal abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy may only be done at a government hospital.
Q: What is a ‘safe’ abortion?
A: A safe abortion is a termination of pregnancy that is performed by a registered professional nurse or registered doctor in a specifically designated facility such as a clinic. Doctors and nurses who perform abortions need to be registered with the Healthcare Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and must have received special training to perform abortions. A ‘designated facility’ is one that has been accredited by the Department of Health, and safe, legal abortions are only available at designated facilities.
Q: How can I spot an illegal or dangerous abortion provider?
A: There are many ways to identify an illegal or unsafe abortion provider, including:
- They operate in unsafe areas, or don’t have a physical building/clinic in which to do abortions.
- They only have a phone number/mobile number (no address), and offer to meet you on the street.
- They cannot give you their HPCSA registration number.
- They employ dangerous methods such as: injecting poisonous solutions into the womb; inserting objects into the womb to dislodge the foetus; giving you tablets that don’t work or make you ill.
- They administer abortion tablets after the ninth week of pregnancy.
- They do not perform a proper physical examination before the procedure.
- They do not follow basic infection prevention guidelines, such as wearing latex gloves, having running water and clean linen, and having separate bins for medical waste disposal.
- They do not provide counselling.
- They do not offer follow-up appointments and contact information in case of questions or complications.
Q: What abortion methods are available?
A: There are two methods available. Medical termination (up to the ninth week of pregnancy) uses pills, and it works similarly to a natural miscarriage. The method involves counselling and a clinical examination beforehand, and a post-abortion check-up afterwards. Two types of pills are taken within 24 hours of each other to ensure effectiveness of the procedure.
If you are between 12 and 20 weeks pregnant, a doctor will dilate your cervix and perform the procedure using a gentle suction method to remove the contents of the uterus.
Q: My abortion question hasn’t been answered here.
A: Please visit our abortion FAQ page or contact us on 0800 11 77 85.
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If you are in need of a safe abortion, we can help you in a private, safe and caring environment. Contact us now to make an appointment for a safe abortion or contraceptive advice and guidance.