Termination of pregnancy (more commonly known as abortion) is legal in South Africa. This means that if you want to have an abortion, you have the right to do so for free at a public healthcare facility. There is also no limit to the number of abortions you can have.
Being able to access safe and legal abortions is important for all girls and women because they are able to decide what is best for their bodies and lives. But so many girls and women don’t know that it is the right and the responsibility of the healthcare system to provide them with abortion services.
What does the law say?
The South African law says that during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you have a right to an abortion, and you don’t have to explain your reasons to the healthcare provider. Any pregnant woman, at any age, can ask for an abortion procedure. Girls under the age of 18 don’t need to get permission from their parents or guardians to get an abortion. Abortions up to 12 weeks can be performed by a registered and trained doctor, nurse, or midwife.
It is also legal to get an abortion between 13 and 20 weeks of pregnancy if you are the victim of rape. Or if your pregnancy is at risk because of your or your babies mental or physical health. Only a registered and trained doctor can perform the abortion in this case.
Check out this Bhekisisa graphic to see when an abortion is available and which healthcare provider can do the procedure:
All healthcare providers are obligated by law to give you accurate information on accessing abortion services. They also can’t refuse to help you get an abortion for any reason (e.g., because of age or marital status).
Healthcare provider s who are not willing to do an abortion MUST refer you to another provider who can help or to another healthcare facility near you in a timely manner. They must give you a referral letter and assist you with making a booking.
According to the law, counselling should be offered to everyone before and after an abortion, but you can’t be forced to go through counselling if you don’t want to. A trained healthcare provider (midwife, nurse, medical doctor, or a community-based health care worker) can provide you with counselling.
Counselling should cover all options including giving away the baby for adoption and how to access child support grants, but the final decision of continuing with an abortion can only be made by the person who is pregnant and not by anyone else.
Counselling should be an opportunity for a healthcare provider to tell you about:
- The different abortion methods available at the facility so you can discuss which one will work best for you.
- What to expect before, during and after the procedure.
- How to recognize if something is wrong after the abortion when you are home.
- How to get help if there is a complication.
- Contraception methods available to you if you want them after the abortion.
- Any follow-up care.
It’s also important to know that the Constitution of our country protects everyone’s right to make decisions about their bodies as well as whether they want to have children or not. Your body, your choice!
Making the choice to have an abortion is not always easy. You may need to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Trained counsellors at loveLife are here for you.
Are you thinking about getting an abortion but not sure where to start? Find out what steps to take here.
Do you know about the different abortion procedures? Learn about them here.
Getting an illegal abortion is dangerous and puts your health at risk. Learn how to spot illegal providers in this article.