South African women are well within their rights to terminate unwanted pregnancies

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A legal act in South Africa, but it still remains a taboo subject. What are the facts?

1 February 1997 marked the day abortions were legalised in South Africa. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (Act 92 of 1996) came into effect on that day, and women were allowed to terminate pregnancies under limited circumstances. 

According to Sexual Health Expert Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng in her book A Guide to Sexual Health & Pleasure, “no person should die, live with complications or experience harassment and sub-optimal medical care due to an unwanted pregnancy”. 

Illegal abortions continue to be a norm in SA, particularly amongst younger women who still think abortions are illegal, or who do not want to be shunned from society for terminating the pregnancy. The subject of abortion continues to be one of morals and religion, rather than the rightful entitlement of a woman that can decide what to do with their body. 

The SA government has indicated strict timelines to administer a termination. Under each timeline, there has to be a reason for opting for termination. 

First 12 weeks of the gestation period

-No reason is required 

From the 13th up to and including the 20th week of the gestation period

-The continued pregnancy would pose a risk of injury to the woman’s physical or mental health

-There is a risk that the fetus would suffer from a severe physical or mental abnormality

-The pregnancy is a result of rape or incest 

-The pregnancy would significantly affect the social or economic circumstances of the woman; 

After the 20th week of the gestation period

A medical practitioner would conduct the termination if the pregnancy:

-Would endanger the woman’s life

-Would result in a severe malformation of the fetus

-Would pose a risk of injury to the fetus

Termination of pregnancy is a human right, and it does not, and should not matter who you are or what your circumstances are. According to Dr. Tlaleng “I have performed abortion procedures for married couples, single women, older women, people who have undergone assisted fertility treatment, young people, wealthy people, poor people, and so many others”. 

Women can access this service at their local clinics, or through organisations like Marie Stopes.

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