Can you have a safe abortion in South Africa? What does the law say and where can you have an abortion in South Africa. Here we outline your rights if you want an abortion in South Africa, the different procedures, side effects and costs.
Safe abortion laws in South Africa
Abortion became legal in South Africa in 1996 through the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. Any woman may choose to terminate for any reason in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Between 13 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, a woman may be eligible for an abortion if she meets certain criteria. A termination may be granted if:
- the pregnancy poses a risk of injury to the woman’s physical or mental health
- there’s a substantial risk that the foetus would suffer from a severe physical or mental abnormality
- the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest
- the continued pregnancy would significantly affect the social or economic circumstances of the woman
Types of abortion in South Africa: surgical and medical procedures
There are two types of abortion offered in South Africa: surgical and medical abortions. You will be advised which is a better option for you based on how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Medical abortion procedure
This procedure involves taking a combination of two medications. The first pill stops your body from producing progesterone (which is a hormone needed to sustain the pregnancy). The second medication, taken 24 to 48 hours later, will open your cervix, cause your uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy.
At Marie Stopes, medical abortion is available for women less than 9 weeks pregnant, and is completed as an outpatient procedure (you will not need to be admitted). Other health facilities may offer a medical abortion to women greater than 9 weeks pregnant – in this case, you will need to be admitted into the hospital for the procedure.
Surgical abortion procedure
A surgical abortion can be performed up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. During a surgical abortion you will usually be given medication to soften and open the cervix. Once the medication has had a few hours to work, the pregnancy will be removed using a suction technique. Some health facilities may offer this procedure under sedation. After being monitored for at least 2 hours after the procedure, you will be able to go home.
The side effects of abortion & does an abortion hurt?
Although each person who has an abortion may experience it differently, the common side affects include:
- abdominal cramping (which can be uncomfortable and/or painful)
- bleeding or spotting
- nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
Where can I get a safe abortion in South Africa?
You should be able to request an abortion, free of charge, at any government health facility – if that particular facility doesn’t offer the service they will refer you to one that does. If you are able to pay for an abortion, Marie Stopes South Africa is the country’s largest non-profit provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services, with clinics in various provinces in South Africa. Click HERE to find a list of their clinics – they also offer a tele-abortion consultation service nationwide. You can contact Marie Stopes on 0800 11 77 85.
Cost of abortion in South Africa
Will having an abortion affect my future fertility?
When carried out safely, having an abortion will not affect your ability to fall pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term.
BYY interview with Marie Stopes
The below video is of an interview between BYY and Dr Louise Gilbert of Marie Stopes where she outlines a woman’s right to a safe abortion in South Africa, what the law says, the procedures and the expected costs.
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