Getting an abortion
The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act No. 92 of 1996 gives all women the right to a free abortion (termination of pregnancy), at a government hospital or clinic during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Women of all ages have the right to an abortion and should never be denied the service because of their age. It's, however, advisable to be accompanied by a trusted adult (a parent, aunt or teacher) for support if you're under 18.
If you're considering going for an abortion, speak to a medical practitioner about the safest methods available to you.
- Medical Abortions
Medical abortions use medication (pills or tablets) only. It's available for women who are between 4 and 9 weeks pregnant. The length of the process is different for each woman but it usually takes a few days. A woman may experiences symptoms similar to a miscarriage.
- Surgical Abortions
Surgical abortions involve a nurse (up to 12 weeks of pregnancy) or a doctor (from 12 to 20 weeks) conducting a same-day procedure in a clinic or hospital.
Where can you have a safe abortion?
Government hospitals designated private doctors and gynaecologists, and non-profit providers such as the Marie Stopes centres in the Western Cape, offer safe and legal termination of pregnancy.
To have a free abortion, the request must be made at a primary healthcare clinic, where the pregnancy will be confirmed, counselling provided, an appointment made, and a referral letter is given to a facility where the procedure can be performed.
Not all health workers are willing to be involved in this service, but they are obligated by law to inform the client of her rights and must refer the client to a health worker or facility, where she can get the service at one of these Western Cape Health Facilities.
How can you access the service?
If you're a first-time visitor to a health facility, you will be asked to complete a form and a folder will be opened.
You will need the following:
- Your official ID document.
- Your referral letter (if relevant).
- Any medication you are taking.
- Your clinic/hospital card if you have previously registered at the facility.
You must sign an informed consent form giving permission for the abortion to be done.
Note: Health workers who are unwilling to give the service for any reason must refer you to a colleague who is willing to do so, or to the appropriate health care facility near you with a referral letter and a booking.
VIDEO: Terminating a pregnancy
Caring for yourself after an abortion
Recovery after an uncomplicated abortion usually happens fairly quickly but it's different for every woman.
Normal symptoms that most women will experience after a surgical abortion include:
- Irregular bleeding or spotting for the first 2 weeks.
- Cramping for the first 2 weeks. Some women may have cramping (like menstrual cramps) for as long as 6 weeks.
- Emotional reactions for 2 to three weeks.
If you experience any of these symptoms, please consult your nearest medical facility immediately:
- Lasting pain.
- Discoloured or smelly vaginal discharge.
- Abdominal tenderness.
- Hot flushes or fever.
- Sudden belly swelling.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Continuous and heavy bleeding, that soaks two or more pads in an hour, for two hours in a row.
Tips to speed-up your recovery:
- Drink a lot of fluids, including water.
- Get a few days’ leave from work to make sure you have recovered fully.
- Eat healthy food, take vitamins and get a lot of rest.
- Avoid exercising for 2 weeks.
- Avoid lifting heavy things and keep clear of hard work.
- Tampons can be used 4 weeks after your treatment or after your first period. Waiting until then helps to minimise the risk of infection.
- Refrain from having sex for up to 2 weeks after an abortion to minimise the risk of infection.
- Avoid drinking alcohol for 48 hours following your treatment, as alcohol can increase the risk of heavy bleeding.
- Look after your feelings as well as your body. Talk to someone about your abortion if you need to.
Women are advised to go for safe, legal abortions rather than "backstreet" abortions that are likely to endanger their health and their lives.
It's much better, and in the long run, a lot cheaper to go to a registered clinic or hospital to have an abortion done. Make informed decisions about your body and your life.
Contraception (Family Planning) for emergency contraception