These are your options if you need to terminate a pregnancy

Violence against women is among the many factors that have increased the need for an abortion for hundreds of women in South Africa.

Picture: Sharon McCutcheon/Pixabay

Pregnancy termination is offered in South Africa at most primary healthcare facilities, but there's increased demand for this service, but diminished capacity to provide terminations, according to Doctors without Borders.

Violence against women is among the many factors that have increased the need for abortion for hundreds of women in South Africa. While access to primary healthcare is not always smooth, the public's knowledge of their rights and access to information remains important.

WHO WILL BE ABLE TO PROVIDE MY ABORTION?

A nurse, a doctor or a registered midwife are the only medical professionals entrusted with determining if a safe termination of pregnancy is possible.

WHEN CAN I HAVE AN ABORTION?

For the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you may have an abortion for any reason.

At 13 to 20 weeks:

  • you can have an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest;

  • if it will impact the women’s socioeconomic situation;

  • the pregnancy will affect the women’s mental or physical health; or

  • the foetus is likely to die.

More than 20 weeks: only in severe instances and if approved by a doctor. This termination can take place if the pregnancy poses a severe threat to the woman’s life or if there are serious congenital problems.

‘KNOW YOUR RIGHTS’

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe, who worked in public health for several years, says there are many barriers that block access to safe abortions, including cost, accessibility based on location and service provider attitudes.

"There are many stories where people may go to a local clinic and keep being turned back until the 20 weeks have passed," Rakumakoe said.

Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition of South Africa has put together a brochure that guides girls and women on options available to them and help empower them in their decision to terminate a pregnancy.

The SRJC online booklet highlights that a patient under the age of 18 can ask a trusted adult about options. It adds that abortion is a personal decision and not that of a family member or intimate partner.

There's also no limit to the number of termination procedures for individuals who want the service.

It is a free service in public health facilities and not limited to South Africans. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers should be able to access this service.

TYPES OF TERMINATIONS

There are medical abortions and surgical abortions:

Medical:

  • One tablet of mifepristone is swallowed first, causing the embryo to stop growing.

  • Two days later, the woman takes misoprostol, causing contractions of the uterus and expelling of the embryo. And because people react differently to medication, the SRJC says patients undergoing the procedure should adhere to instructions given by health professionals.

  • This procedure is usually used for those who are less than 12 weeks pregnant.

Surgical:

  • This is especially for those who are more than 12 weeks pregnant and can be done at a clinic or hospital.

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