Termination of Pregnancy (TOP)


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 three 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 is, however, advisable to be accompanied by a trusted adult (a parent, aunt or teacher) for support if you are under 18.

Abortion methods 

Couple Holding Hands

If you are 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 is available for women who are between four and nine weeks pregnant.

The length of the process is different for each woman but it usually takes a few days, during which a woman 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 be 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.

Women are advised to go for safe, legal abortions rather than "backstreet" abortions that are likely to endanger their health and their lives.


How can you access the service?

If you are 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.

Also see:

Avoiding Illegal / Unsafe Abortions

Contraception (Family Planning) for emergency contraception

Termination of Pregnancy (ToP): Policy, Guidelines and Protocols  

Provided At: These facility categories:
Provided by:
Government Body: (Western Cape Government)

TOP is free of charge at primary healthcare facilities and when referred up the line. Ambulance services are free of charge for women who have an abortion. 

The content on this page was last updated on 9 March 2015