October 3 2011 at 12:10pm 


Health Writer

The number of abortions among women older than 18 has increased steadily in the Western Cape in the past two years, according to Health MEC Theuns Botha.

Responding recently in the legislature on the impact that illegal abortions have on public health care facilities, Botha said such abortions continued to take place, despite the service that was offered at more than 30 health care centres in the province.

While health care facilities had treated a number of women with complications arising from illegal abortions, Botha said it was difficult to say how many cases there had been as those known to the department were only of women who volunteered the information during treatment.

The department had, however, noted an increase in the number of women seeking the legal service.


In 2009, 13 172 abortions were performed in the province.

Last year, the number increased to 13 810.

Most of these, Botha said, were performed on women older than 18.

According to Marie Stopes, one of the largest private clinics specialising in reproductive health care, about 72 percent of women seeking termination of pregnancy were older than 18. Teenagers younger than 18 accounted for 5.8 percent.

Marie Stopes spokeswoman Leanne Visser said most women who sought abortions were aged between 18 and 30.

The clinic’s figures also showed a rise in the number of abortions it performed countrywide, from 46 644 in 2009 to 51 216 last year.


Between January 1 and May 31 this year, the clinic performed about 1 640 abortions.

In just more than 50 percent of the terminations, an abortion pill was used.

In cases where the pregnancy was between nine and 20 weeks, the abortion was performed surgically.

Abortions are performed free of charge in the public health care sector, but in the private sector the cost can range from R900 to more than R2 000.

According to the latest figures from the national Health Department, between 1997 – when legal termination of pregnancy was introduced – and last year, about 702 354 abortions were performed at public health care facilities nationwide.

About 528 000 of these involved teenagers.


Speaking during a Hospital Association of SA conference in Cape Town recently, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi expressed concern about the number of teenagers who were having abortions, describing the situation as “catastrophic”.

He said this was proof that young people were engaging in unprotected sex and risking HIV infection.

Part of what the National Health Insurance would introduce in the re-engineering of primary health care, Motsoaledi said, was a health programme in which nurses would provide reproductive health services at schools.


Visser said while the number of abortions might seem high, this should not be seen as a negative thing.

The increase was an indication that women were becoming more aware of their rights and options.

“The law allows for women to choose to terminate their pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation,” Visser said.

“The increase could be for a number of reasons. It could be that women feel more empowered to make such choices.”

Visser urged the authorities to be concerned rather about the number of illegal abortions that were being performed.

She called for more rigorous education to help teenagers make informed decisions.

She also called on parents and teachers to talk openly about contraception methods and the correct use of and access to contraception.

“Research shows that a large majority of pregnant teenagers are in poor communities where educational and financial opportunities are limited.

“Women need to be made aware that contraception is a method to prevent pregnancy, and that abortion is not a form of contraception.”


Marion Stevens, co-ordinator of Women in Sexual and Reproductive Health, said there was a need for a widespread use of abortion pills, otherwise known as medical abortion, rather than the surgical option.

In the Western Cape, the abortion pill was available only at the Khayelitsha clinic.


Botha said the fact that illegal abortions continued to take place pointed to deficiencies in the system, including a lack of access to clinics.


16 May 2011

Pretoria — The Department of Health has again urged members of the public to use legal and designated abortion sites.

This follows yet another arrest of a man suspected of being a part of a syndicate of bogus doctors performing illegal abortions.

The man was arrested on Saturday shortly after he could allegedly abort a young woman’s unborn baby in Pretoria.

“In registered clinics and hospitals the termination services are performed by qualified and trained doctors and nurses in proper environments, such services are provided free of charge,” said department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe.

The department commended the arrest of the suspect and urged members of the public to work with the department and SAPS in reporting all suspected places where these illegal abortions are performed.

Hadebe warned women, who want to exercise their choice to terminate pregnancies, to avoid going to illegal and unregistered facilities that are mostly unhygienic.

“Such illegal abortions often lead to extreme dangers such as permanent damage of the womb and even death in some instances. People wishing to terminate pregnancy are advised to talk to their health worker (a doctor or nurse), where they will be given counselling on the procedure.”

He further warned that illegal, backstreet abortion facilities are only there to crook desperate women and rob them of their cash.

Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has raised concerns regarding the number of young girls taking the route of abortion due to the lack of information on contraceptives.

Speaking at the National Nursing Summit in April this year, Motsoaledi challenged nurses to join the department in embarking on a campaign to promote family planning to young girls through the use of contraception, instead of them resorting to abortion.

Motsoaledi was also aggrieved by the fact that streets poles were littered with advertisements for “safe abortions”, mainly from flight-by-night health professionals.

“Young girls only see boards about safe abortions … we’ve got to solve this problem. We must bring back the campaign of contraception to schools to stop pregnancies,” Motsoaledi said at the time, emphasising that nurses with special training in family health care should be deployed in schools.

State hospitals and clinics can’t meet demand for free, safe terminations of pregnancy

The figures were given in response to a parliamentary question by the African Christian Democratic Party’s Cheryllyn Dudley.

But the department also revealed that the number of abortions in state facilities had declined dramatically between 2009 and 2010.

Of the 545525 abortions at state institutions since 2004, 84478 were in 2009 and 38321 last year.

This, experts say, is because a decreasing number of state nurses are prepared to perform the procedure and there are long waiting lists at government institutions.

The department’s response to the question revealed that 86074 abortions were performed in 2004, 89850 in 2005, 86891 in 2006, 69243 in 2007, 90668 in 2008, 84478 in 2009 and 38321 in 2010.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said there was “no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statistics”.

But Laila Abbas, advocacy manager of the private abortion clinic group, Marie Stopes, said the number of abortions at the group’s clinics had increased by an average of 10% a year since 1997.

Last year, the group performed 51185 abortions at its 23 clinics around the country, 13000 more than the abortions recorded by the state sector. But, Abbas said, the state’s record-keeping was poor.

She said that reduced access to a free, state abortion service, and lack of money to pay for an abortion at a private clinic, were forcing women to resort to backstreet abortion clinics, which she said were “mushrooming” throughout the country.

A spokesman for the Health Department, Fidel Hadebe, said that “abortion was never meant to be a substitute for birth control”.

“We need to increase access to reproductive health services, including contraception, for young girls so that a lot of these problems [associated with backstreet abortions] can be prevented,” Hadebe said.

“A number of the abortions done in basement or backstreet operations lead to huge problems which require our intervention”.

An unnamed midwife at a Gauteng government hospital said that she had refused to have abortion training.

“It’s against my religion. I refuse to go for training though I have learned about it in theory,” she said.

Late last year, the Western Cape Department of Health introduced free abortion pills at government clinics on a trial basis.

The tablet, described as a “non-invasive method of terminating a pregnancy”, is only for women who are less than nine weeks’ pregnant.

Marion Stevens, the co-ordinator of the charity coalition Women Working in Sexual and Reproductive Health, said that abortion was “still very stigmatised” among health workers.

“It’s easier to talk about HIV than abortion,” she said.




2010-01-29 22:06

Cape Town – A Christian organisation on Friday accused two Cape Town newspapers of censorship after they refused to publish anti-abortion advertisements.

“In what appears to be a case of censorship by the press, The Cape Times and Argus have again refused to place an obituary notice [for aborted babies],” said Christian Action Network (CAN) international co-ordinator Taryn Hodgson in a statement.

The newspapers refused to publish the advertisement in their classified “Deaths” and “Personal” sections, Hodgson said.

“Freedom of speech seems to be undermined when newspaper editors censor obituary notices and refuse to give appropriate media coverage to the hidden holocaust of 900 000 South African babies killed by abortion,” she said.

Cape Times and Cape Argus have refused to publish CAN’s anti-abortion advertisements for the past four years. However, Die Burger and The Citizen newspapers had no qualms in publishing the advertisements in their “Deaths” sections, she said.


Independent Newspapers editor-in-chief Chris Whitfield told Sapa the advertisements were refused because it would be inappropriate to publish the anti-abortion obituary in the “Deaths” section.

Such advertisements would violate the “sensibilities for people who use the columns to commemorate loved ones”, he said.

He told CAN the same when they were refused publication in previous years, he said.

Hodgson called this stance “hypocritical” because the newspapers’ classifieds “often contain legitimately offensive material such as abortuaries and strip joint advertisements”.

However, Whitfield called this a “wilful misunderstanding” of his words.

“I told them I would be happy to place the advertisement anywhere in the paper but the ‘Deaths’ section,” he said.

They could even publish in the “Personal” section, he said.

Hodgson said they did not try to publish the advertisements elsewhere in the newspapers upon the first refusal.

The advertisements were due to be published on February 1, when CAN will lead a “funeral procession” to Parliament in Cape Town in protest against the “thousands of babies, killed by abortion, who have never had a funeral”, the statement read.