Abortion is essential to women’s health, rights and well-being. When we restrict abortions, we only restrict safe abortions. Recognising this, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed in 1996, which allows abortion on request until 12 weeks and on certain conditions until 20 weeks – and continues to be one of the most progressive abortion laws in the world.
Despite being legal, millions of women turn to unsafe methods of abortion in South Africa. The South African Constitution asserts every individual’s right to access reproductive healthcare. Yet, many women and girls are denied their right to choose due to barriers such as severe stigma, obstruction to access due to conscientious objection by healthcare providers, poor infrastructure, and unavailability of safe services and SRH commodities Inadvertently, South Africa still sees a significant number of maternal deaths due to septic abortions, which are often a result of illegal and unsafe abortion procedures.
Increasing access to safe abortion could avert over 50,000 deaths a year globally. When women and girls are empowered with the right and autonomy to make decisions about their health, bodies and lives, they can contribute constructively to the development of the country, and help it thrive. A woman having control over her body and life goes a long way in achieving gender equality. Our message is simple: If it’s her body, it should be her choice – and access to critical SRH services such as safe abortion is an essential part of being able to exercise that choice.
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng with medical students at a sensitization workshop at WITS university,
The My Body, My Choice campaign organised a march for reproductive justice. The march took place on September 28 2019 on the global day of action for safe and legal abortion.
An end to abortion stigma – and all socio-cultural barriers that impede access to safe SRH services such as safe abortion. Too often, religious and cultural beliefs come in the way of women and girls being able to achieve the highest standard of health. Stigma associated with abortion is one of the primary reasons for women and girls in South Africa to seek abortions through unsafe means. While we have one of the most progressive abortion laws in the world, yet, several women continue to struggle to access safe abortion services. THIS MUST END. We must raise our voices for a South Africa that is free of stigma, discrimination, coercion and violence. We must ensure that every woman and girl is able to access confidential and judgement free safe abortion services.
Effective implementation of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. The South African constitution believes in and protects a woman’s right to choose. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act reaffirms this right. However, a range of barriers lead to the ineffective implementation of the law and prevent women from accessing safe abortion services. Advocates, allies and policymakers must take appropriate steps to eliminate all legal, economic, institutional and social barriers that lead to the ineffective implementation of the CTOPA.