1. According to a 2006 study 56% of South Africans believe abortion is always wrong even if there is a strong chance that the baby will have serious birth defects. A total of 70% believe it is wrong if abortion is done simply because the parents have low income and feel that they cannot afford to care for additional children.[i]
2. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act was introduced in the first post-Apartheid parliament. It applied the statement in the governing ANC’ policy framework that “every woman must have the right to choose whether or not to have an early termination of pregnancy according to her own beliefs”. Although it was requested that parliament members be allowed to vote according to their personal beliefs, the ruling party ruled that its own members may not vote against the act, and the act passed by 209 votes to 87 (5 abstained, 99 were absent). It came into force on 1 February 1997.[ii]
3. The debate among pro-choice and pro-life advocates has been complicated by the historically racist use of population control policies under the Nationalist Party government. Many black South Africans oppose abortion for religious reasons or view abortion as yet another vestige of apartheid policy, designed to control the growth of the black and colored population.[iii]
4. In South Africa, a woman of any age can get an abortion by simply requesting with no reasons given if she is less than 13 weeks pregnant. If she is between 13 and 20 weeks pregnant, she can get the abortion if (a) her own physical or mental health is at stake, (b) the baby will have severe mental or physical abnormalities, (c) she is pregnant because of incest, (d) she is pregnant because of rape, or (e) she is of the personal opinion that her economic or social situation is sufficient reason for the termination of pregnancy. If she is more than 20 weeks pregnant, she can get the abortion only if her or the fetus’ life is in danger or there are likely to be serious birth defects. The reasoning for the increasing level of motivation related to the stage of pregnancy seems rather arbitrary and inconsistent to me.[iv]
5. The South African Constitution does not explicitly mention abortion, but two sections of the Bill of Rights mention reproductive rights. Section 12(2)(a) states that, “Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right […] to make decisions concerning reproduction,” while section 27(1)(a) states “Everyone has the right to have access to […] health care services, including reproductive health care.” Again it is hard to see the implication of abortion from the bill since abortion is a post reproduction procedure, it could be used however as a defence of contraception.
6. Since the legalisation of abortion on demand there has been a decrease in deaths from backstreet abortions, but the number of deaths following abortions are still quite high according to statistics gathered in Gauteng province—5% of maternal deaths following childbirth are abortion related, and 43% of these are related to legal abortions.[v]
7. In 1998 the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court ruled that a foetus is not a person and does not have a right to life. This ruling however does appear to not have any scientific (http://www.consciencelaws.org/background/science/science001.aspx) or religious grounding.[vi]
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[ii] Guttmacher, Sally; Kapadia, Farzana; Naude, Jim Te Water; de Pinho, Helen (December 1998). “Abortion Reform in South Africa: A Case Study of the 1996 Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act”. International Family Planning Perspectives (Guttmacher Institute) 24 (4). Accessed 21/09/2013
[iv] Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, Act 92 of 1996
[v] Dawes, A. (Ed.) (2003). The state of children in Gauteng. A report for the office of the Premier, Gauteng Provincial Government. Pretoria: Child Youth and Family Development, Human Sciences Research Council. Page 82, 157, 161
[vi] “This Day in History: 10 July 1998”. South African History Online. Retrieved 27 August 2011.