Teens given right to abortion

2004-05-28 20:16

Pretoria - Girls under 18 can have abortions legally without parental consent, Pretoria High Court ruled on Friday.

The court dismissed the Christian Lawyers' Association's challenge to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. This is the second time the CLA has lost a court challenge to the act.

Judge Phineas Mojapelo ruled that the constitution protected a woman's right to determine the fate of her own pregnancy, and said this applied to everyone, including girls under 18.

Mojapelo said, however, the act demanded that if a pregnant minor wanted an abortion, a doctor or registered midwife "is enjoined in peremptory language" to advise the girl to consult her parents before the pregnancy was terminated.

Women's Legal Centre attorney Nikki Taylor welcomed the ruling saying that minors' rights to reproductive choice had to be "protected and promoted" to reverse the trend of teenage pregnancy.

Impairing ability to make choices

"Adolescent pregnancies are dangerous for mother and child. Every year at least 60 000 adolescent women die from health problems related to pregnancy and child birth."

Taylor also said teenage pregnancies were "disempowering", limiting girls' education and income-earning capacity and impairing their ability to make well-informed choices about life.

In addition, most sexual contact between teenagers was unprotected.

The CLA had argued that the act infringed on the constitutional right of every child to family or parental care and to be protected from maltreatment, neglect or degradation.

The association said a decision to abort a pregnancy would have long-term emotional, emotional and physical, or emotional, physical and spiritual effects on a girl from which she should be protected through parental advice.

The Womens' Legal Centre, on behalf of the Reproductive Rights Alliance, intervened as a "friend of the court" and argued that there might be compelling reasons why requiring parental consent could endanger teenagers.

Also, there might be compelling reasons why teenagers would rather not consult their parents.

If teenagers were forced to consult their parents, it might cause them to seek illegal, and dangerous, termination procedures.