South Africa

GroundUp: Parliamentarian tries to curb abortion

By GroundUp 1 August 2017

Terminating a pregnancy after 12 weeks will be much harder if a private member's bill passes. By Safura Abdool Karim for GROUNDUP.

First published by GroundUp

A Member of Parliament is trying to limit the right to abortion. Cheryllyn Dudley (ACDP) introduced a private member’s bill that proposes a severe departure from existing law.

Under current legislation, any woman may have an abortion up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy. From week 13 to 20, a woman may have an abortion if the pregnancy poses a risk to her or it would “significantly affect” her “social or economic circumstances”. This last reason makes South African abortion law different to many other countries. It makes abortions accessible to almost all women up to their 20th week.

If passed, Dudley’s bill would remove this option for women, making it more difficult to have an abortion after 12 weeks. Most women only discover their unplanned pregnancy between their 8th and 10th week, so this would be especially difficult for them.

In essence, it would be illegal for women to get an abortion from week 13 unless the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or the foetus is severely malformed. The bill would also make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions from week 13 where the pregnancy poses a risk of injury to the foetus, something currently allowed.

The bill also tries to dissuade women from having abortions. Currently, if you wish to have an abortion you do not have to undergo any counselling, but the bill makes counselling mandatory. Also, this counselling requires doctors to show women photographs and pictures of developing foetuses as well as information about available alternatives like adoption.

Similar laws have been introduced in the United States to discourage women from exercising their reproductive rights. While the bill claims to do this so that women are informed, in practice it will hinder a woman’s freedom and right to bodily autonomy.

The bill also requires that an ultrasound be done to estimate how long a woman seeking an abortion has been pregnant. While at first glance, this appears to be a harmless amendment, it would make abortions less accessible if the clinic does not have enough ultrasound machines or staff to perform them. Current medical practice does not use ultrasounds to determine the length of the pregnancy, irrespective of whether an abortion is being sought.

Dudley consulted only Doctors for Life, an anti-abortion organisation, and two people from New Zealand (a country with very restrictive abortion laws) when drafting the bill.

The bill has not yet been tabled in Parliament. Comments may be emailed to the Speaker of the National Assembly at [email protected] and to [email protected] until Wednesday, 9 August 2017. DM

Photo: The Marie Stopes clinics provide many reproductive health services, including abortion. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Gallery

In other news...

The South African economy is choking harder than the Proteas. Although to be choking you have to actually be eating and the Proteas seem to be on some sort of juice cleanse-like fast…*

Back to the economy: In the first quarter the GDP dive-bombed by a whopping 3.2%. The sense of futility can paralyse us into inaction and moaning. But it’s times like these that call for effort and action, no matter how small. Yes, South Africa is hurting. Yes the ravaged economy is evident everywhere you look. But you can make a difference, in your own personal way and by supporting independent media like Daily Maverick. We’ve pledged to continue the fight through producing incisive and impactful investigations and analysis, the same way we have done every day for the last decade.

By becoming a Maverick Insider you can help us keep doing what we do, so that you and others who can’t afford it, can keep reading the truth. For whatever amount you choose, you can support DM and it only takes a minute.

Support Daily Maverick→Payment options

*Proteas, you know we love you. We’d just love you more if you won occasionally...


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

Diplomacy Matters

Naledi Pandor slaps down Zindzi Mandela for undiplomatic and personally insulting tweets

By Peter Fabricius

The originator of the Big Bang Theory was a Catholic priest.