How to Access Safe Abortion Services in South Africa
In South Africa, abortion is legal for any reason within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After 12 weeks, abortion is available under certain conditions.1 One can either go to a private clinic or a public hospital for safe abortion services. At a public hospital, the cost of the abortion is covered under the national health plan and should be no expense to you. The cost of visiting a private provider will vary, based on the type of abortion service provided.
Despite the liberal abortion laws in South Africa, about 50 percent of abortions conducted annually in South Africa happen outside the licensed facilities.2 According to the World Health Organization an unsafe abortion is a procedure for terminating an unintended pregnancy, carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills and/or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards. Unsafe abortion can lead to death or other reproductive health complications.3
Although South Africa is one of the African countries with the most progressive abortion laws stigma at both the community and providers level bars women from accessing to safe abortion services in South Africa. Consequently, women have always fallen prey to unsafe abortion practices. In their search for discrete and non-judgmental abortion services, women are easily lured by abortion service flyers that are all over the streets. While these fliers audaciously advertise ‘safe abortion’ services, women have reported to have experienced the contrary type of services. The advertisement of unsafe abortion services does not stop with fliers. In order to take advantage of digital innovation, the abortion advertisements have moved to social media pages, where we have individuals promising to offer abortion services that go beyond what is legally and medically viable.4
In the spirit of protecting vulnerable women from unsafe abortion providers, especially during the COVID-19 times, our team has collected a list of 4 main considerations that we need to observe before settling for an abortion provider in South Africa.
- Do not accept abortion service from an “abortion service provider” whose only credential is a mobile number and the “medical practitioner” is happy to meet you at any location that you suggest for a consultation. A valid service provider should have searchable addresses and details that can be easily confirmed with the public health offices. They should also be attached to a public of private facility that you can call and visit to verify their ability to provide the advertised services. It is advisable to trust known brand names that are trusted for their provision of quality sexual and reproductive health services.
Facilities like Marie stopes South Africa that is offering Telemedicine services during the COVID-19 crisis has a clear toll free phone number on their website, which one can use to access phone based consultations with qualified abortion service providers in their facilities.
- A safe abortion clinic will not operate in an unsanitary and unsafe area. Trust your eyes and your instincts. Public hospitals are well known and you cannot go wrong with them. However, private clinics that offer abortion services may not be obvious to everyone. If you think the building and location of the abortion clinic is suspect, you are most likely right. A safe abortion clinic must adhere to the recommended safety and sanitary standards. Safe abortion clinics will conduct physical examinations using proper safety gears like latex gloves and will observe general hygiene including the availability of clean linen, running water and a medical waste disposal system. Patients visiting proper clinics will most likely be asked to schedule a follow-up appointment with their provider.5
- You should only seek the services of a qualified provider. How do you know if the person offering abortion services online or through a poster is a legitimate provider? It is your duty to find out if the person offering you the abortion service has a Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) registration number, which basically licenses him/her to practice as a medical provider. Once you get your providers registration number, it is easy to verify its validity by visiting https://www.hpcsa.co.za/. Once there, visit the contact page and make inquiries using the provided contacts. A registered provider name will appear in the HPCSA online register.
It is also important to note that, “on 3 April 2020, the HPCSA published a Notice to Amend Telemedicine Guidelines during COVID-19. It says that, while telemedicine should preferably be practiced in circumstances where there is an already established practitioner-patient relationship, where such a relationship does not yet exist; practitioners may still consult using telemedicine provided the consultations are done in the best clinical interests of the patient.”6
- Be cautious if the “abortion service provider” is offering you a procedure that one would likely not qualify for in licensed private or public facilities. Fake abortion providers are only motivated by profits and will lure you into accepting their dangerous abortion procedures by offering to do the impossible. When the deal is too good, think twice! The type of abortion service offered to a woman is dependent on the results of a proper consultation with a qualified service provider. Fake doctors are not keen on conducting proper consultations and will use methods that may end up causing serious injuries or death. In case you are under 11 weeks of pregnancy and looking to receive medical abortion services, we recommend that you read through our website.
At HowToUseAbortionPill we explain how medical abortion works, what to know beforehand, how it's done safely, and what to expect afterwards. You can read all of that information on our site here. Our chat bot is also available 24/7 to respond to any questions you may have.
- 1Abortion Reform in South Africa: A Case Study of the 1996 Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/ipsrh/1998/12/abortion-reform-south-africa-case-study-1996-choice-termination-pregnancy-act
- 2It takes more than pro-choice laws to end deaths from unsafe abortions https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jun/06/pro-choice-laws-deaths-unsafe-abortions-south-africa-dr-tlaleng-mofokeng
- 3Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems, Second edition page 18 (World Health Organization 2012)
- 4 South Africa’s Liberal Abortion Laws Hampered by Widespread Stigma. VOA. https://www.voanews.com/africa/south-africas-liberal-abortion-laws-hampered-widespread-stigma
- 5 Where should you go for a safe abortion in South Africa? W24 https://www.w24.co.za/SelfCare/Wellness/Body/where-should-you-go-for-a-safe-abortion-in-south-africa-20190517
- 6South Africa: a space of many contradictions – and now Covid-19. International Campaign to Women Rights to safe abortion. https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/blog/south-africa-a-space-of-many-contradictions-and-now-covid-19/