It’s your body, it’s your choice. That is your right.
An abortion can be done either medically or surgically.
South Africa has some of the most liberal sexual and reproductive health laws in the world. This means that, as women, we are in control of our own bodies.
In SA, it is legal to get an abortion up until your 20th week of pregnancy. It’s been this way since November 1996. A termination can be performed after the 20th week, but only if your life is at risk or your baby can’t be carried to term.
The choice is yours and always will be. Your body, your choice. But that still doesn’t make it an easy one. Especially when you don’t know where to safely have the procedure carried out. Every second flyer is offering safe and painless abortions.
But who can be trusted?
Here are the legal, safe abortion options near you, and how to know whether a clinic or abortion service is unsafe.
Here’s everything you need to know from A to Bortion…
Know your rights
All women have the right to legal, safe abortions. This means that it doesn’t matter what age you are or what your family, husband or partner thinks. Essentially, it’s up to you. There is also no limit to the number of times you can have the procedure.
You have the right to choose what is best for you and your body.
Not all health practitioners are willing to be involved in termination services. This is their choice and that is fine. However, should they refuse to help you for whatever reason, they are obligated to refer you to someone or someplace that will. It is the law. Know your rights and use them.
Know your options
There are options when it comes to abortion methods. It’s important to speak to your medical practitioner about which will be the safest option for you.
Medical abortions: A medical abortion is performed using medication (pills or tablets) only. This option is available to women who are between four and nine weeks pregnant. The length of the process is different for each woman, but will usually take a few days.
A medical abortion requires the use of two drugs. One will stop the embryo from growing and the second (taken two days later), causes contractions expelling the embryo. Heavy bleeding occurs within the first six hours and you should expect to bleed or spot for about two weeks.
After 10 to 14 days it’s important to have a follow-up visit to ensure the abortion was successful.
Surgical abortions involve a nurse or a doctor and it’s a same-day procedure that’s done at the clinic or hospital. You might be given the same drugs used in a medical abortion to get the process going. Usually, you won’t bleed as much as a medical abortion once the surgical abortion is complete.
Safe abortion centres in South Africa
Western Cape (Atlantis, Belville, Cape Town and Phillipi)
Eastern Cape (East London and Port Elizabeth)
Free State (Bloemfontein)
Gauteng (Gandhi Square, Midrand, Pretoria, Sandton, Soweto and Springs)
KwaZulu-Natal (Ballito, Durban and Isipingo)
North West (Mafikeng)
To get a safe abortion in South Africa, you can go to a government hospital or public health clinic. Here, you will get free assistance and support. Private doctors and non-profit organisations that are trained and qualified to do abortions are also legal and safe options.
Private facilities will obvs be a bit pricier.
A safe, legal option will be approved by the Department of Health. Look out for a name or brand that is trustworthy, such as Marie Stopes. Here are some tips on knowing which abortion centres to avoid at all costs…
How do I know if a place is unsafe?
Those flyers, you see them everywhere… Promising safe, same-day, painless abortions – 100% guarantee them, in fact.
But these illegal abortions are literal death traps and you need to avoid them. Even so, between 52 and 58% of the yearly abortions taking place in SA are illegal. And the problem with this is that you can get seriously hurt.
Not just that, unsafe abortions can lead to death. Here are a few tips to check whether a place is up to standard…
If a place is happy to perform abortions outside the constraints of the law (after 20 weeks), it’s illegal and unsafe. No abortion clinic will operate within an unsafe, unsanitary area or an actual building.
It’s a big red flag if there is only a mobile number and the “medical practitioner” is happy to meet you at your preferred location.
If you arrive at the location and begin to feel on edge, ask for the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) registration number. If this can’t be given to you, Avoid. This. Place.
It’s also a trap if other practices besides medical and surgical abortions are offered.
All abortion clinics will do physical examinations in latex gloves and with general hygiene (running water, clean linen, a medical waste disposal system…). You will always be recommended to schedule a follow-up appointment.
If this isn’t offered or unadvised, beware.
The Marie Stopes website is full of useful tips and facts. You can also call them on 0800 11 77 85.