Parliament relaxes abortion law

2008-02-07 22:20

Cape Town - Parliament on Thursday approved legal changes to make abortions easier to obtain, despite criticism from opponents who said the law was already too lax.

The changes will provide for 24-hour abortion facilities, do away with pre-approval procedures and permit all nurses - instead of just midwives - to terminate pregnancies.

"The amendment bill promotes quality health care," Joyce Masilo, a deputy from the ruling African National Congress, told parliament's upper house, which unanimously passed the bill.

It will now be referred to President Thabo Mbeki to sign into law.

Critics said the law already made abortions too easy. Women as young as 12 can get an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in some cases up to 20 weeks.

Religious activists and several political parties opposed the proposed changes, saying the bill should make counselling mandatory given that women as young as 12 could have abortions without their parents' knowledge.

But the ruling party's big parliamentary majority ensured approval for the changes.