'This is your decision': Here's why the US ruling won't affect access to abortion in South Africa

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"The pregnancy can be terminated if the woman is between 13 and 20 weeks gestation under specific conditions."
"The pregnancy can be terminated if the woman is between 13 and 20 weeks gestation under specific conditions."

The recent ruling in the US on access to abortion has sparked outrage.

The USA supreme court ruling, which sees women only able to access abortions in extreme life and death emergencies, has taken away the reproductive option that allows women and girls to break the cycle of poverty and the right to determine how their future looks.

Hopefully, this ruling will have no bearing on us as South Africans.  

Read: 'I'm lucky to be alive': Sex workers say they are forced to seek out illegal abortions 

The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 

Women in South Africa are fortunate that we have been given a choice over what happens to our bodies.

In South Africa, abortions are made possible by the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act which gives women the right to an abortion at either a government or private hospital.

According to the act, a pregnancy can be terminated between 13 and 20 weeks gestation under specific conditions.

From 21-weeks gestation, there needs to be proof that the life of the foetus is in danger or if there are likely to be severe congenital disabilities or the mother's life is in danger if the pregnancy continues. 

These procedures can be done at a government facility (contact the Department of Health at 012 395 8000 or your closest government hospital).

There is also a non-profit organisation that performs safe abortions called Marie Stopes. Before any planned abortion procedure, the woman will see a counsellor who will talk her through the process and see what options are available for her and the risks involved, if any. 

Types of procedures 

The preferred method will also be discussed, as there are two types of procedures: 

Medical Abortions

How far along you are will determine this method. It starts with administering tablets which will result in pain and bleeding, and then the pregnancy loss will follow. 

Surgical Abortions

These occur when a woman is about 12 weeks pregnant. This is performed by a medical doctor and is a one-day procedure. 

Must read: Everything you need to know about safe abortions in South Africa in 2020

The counsellor or nurse will then discuss the different types of contraceptive options that are available that will suit you and your lifestyle. 

This is not a decision to be taken lightly and should be handled with extreme care. If you have a support structure, please reach out and talk to someone who knows what you're going through and will be able to be there for you during this time. 

Once you decide to go ahead, make sure you are okay with it, mentally and physically and understand that this is your decision alone. 

Find support

If you suspect you might need help, or you know someone who is struggling, immediately contact the following organisations for advice and support:

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): 011 234 4837

SADAG has a WhatsApp counselling line that operates from 9am to 4pm: 076 882 2775 

Gauteng Mental Health Society: 011 984 4038

SA Federation For Mental Health: 011 781 1852


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