Abortion is legal in South Africa in accordance with the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 1996 (CTOPA) and 2008 amendments to the same Act. Medical abortions can be accessed at licenced government and private facilities. Despite the existence of these comparatively liberal abortion laws, access to abortion services has been hampered by competing health priorities, such as HIV/AIDS, and a high number of conscientious objectors who have continued to spread abortion stigma.1
Abortion is legal in South Africa in accordance with the above act,) which allows a woman of any age to terminate a pregnancy upon her request, if she is within the ﬁrst 12 weeks of gestation. However, if approved by a medical practitioner, an abortion can also be performed from the 13th to 20th week of pregnancy under the following conditions:
Abortion may also be legal after the 20th week of gestation if a medical practitioner, after consultation with another medical practitioner or a registered midwife, is of the opinion that the continued pregnancy would:
South Africa provides both medical and in-clinic abortion services. For a Medical Abortion (MA), a combination of two drugs, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, is used. The in-clinic procedures available are Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) and Dilation and Evacuation (D&E).
Since the 2008 amendment to the CTOPA, abortion services in South Africa can only be provided by:
Nurses and midwives, who have completed the prescribed training, are only allowed to perform abortions for pregnancies under 12 weeks. After three months’ gestation, only a medical doctor can perform an abortion.
Safe and legal abortions in South Africa can be performed at public or private medical facilities designated by the government through a gazette notice. The facilities may fall into the following categories:
In South Africa, only the pregnant woman’s consent is required for the termination of a pregnancy. If the pregnant person is a minor, the abortion service provider is required to advise her to consult with her parents, guardians, family members or friends before the pregnancy is terminated. The law clearly states that the provision of abortion services to a minor should not be denied just because the minor did not consult the recommended persons.2
All government (public) facilities provide free abortion services.
In private clinics:
There are several types of abortion pills available in South Africa:
Mifepristone is a drug that blocks the hormone, progesterone, which is needed for a pregnancy to continue. Misoprostol can be used on its own, or after Mifepristone, to encourage a complete medical abortion. You can find more information on Misoprostol and Mifepristone usage here.
South Africa has a huge problem with unregistered people selling miscellaneous abortion pills to women, thereby increasing the rate of women hospitalized due to unsafe abortion practices.
Abortion pills are only safely available in public facilities across South Africa. You will, however, need a prescription.
Illegal sellers often provide abortion pills without a prescription; however, they do not always provide proper instructions on eligibility, dosage and usage.3 To be safe, women must ensure that they get abortion services from registered providers. We suggest that you visit our website for comprehensive information on how to use the pill: https://www.howtouseabortionpill.org/howto/
The most common brand name for abortion pills in South Africa is Cytotec. This is what the Cytotec abortion pills look like:
This is what the Mifegyne abortion pills look like:
This is what the Mifeprex abortion pills look like:
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