South Africa Allows Non-Doctors to Perform Abortions, Women at Risk

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 24, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Africa Allows Non-Doctors to Perform Abortions, Women at Risk Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
August 24, 2004

Cape Town, South Africa ( — South Africa lawmakers have passed a law, that detractors say puts women at risk, by allowing doctors, midwives, and even nurses to perform abortions.

Under previous law, abortions could only be performed with the approval of two doctors and after approval from a medical board.

Additionally, an abortion was only legal if done in cases of rape, incest, threat to the physical or mental health of the mother, handicap on the part of the unborn child or an existing handicap of the mother’s that would not allow her to properly care for her child.

Although the previous law allowed for thousands of abortions, opponents say the new one will open the floodgates for many times more.

Under the new law, passed last Thursday as the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill, any doctor, registered midwife, nurse, or 24-hour maternity service can perform abortions up until the 12th week of pregnancy without any approval process.

Democratic Alliance MP Ryan Coetzee told the Independent Online that lawmakers on both sides of the abortion debate considered the bill to be a "very bad law," yet only 52 of the 400 MPs voted against the measure.

Deputy President Jacob Zuma defended the bill, and accused those who opposed it of racism, arguing that the requisite steps to obtaining the abortion were easier for white women than black women. Over 61 percent of abortions in South Africa are performed on whites women, according to the Medical Research council.

Opponents expressed the concern that the new law would put more pressure on medical professionals to perform abortions, even against their will.

Groups that opposed the bill included the African Christian Democratic Party, the United Christian Democratic Party, the Freedom Front Plus, and The South African Catholic Bishops Conference.

"The Catholic Church calls on all catholic medical personnel to insist on their constitutional rights, respecting their freedom of conscience and to refuse to cooperate in the performance of abortions," the Bishops said in a statement earlier this month.

"We note with great sadness that 330,000 innocent human lives have been destroyed since the Abortion Act came into operation in 1997," added the Bishops. "There is no doubt that the aim of the proposed amendment is to increase the number of abortions in our country and as a Church we deplore this onslaught on the lives of the unborn."

The Bishop’s Conference resolved to continue "to counsel, to protect and to care for unmarried mothers and other women in pregnancy crisis and situations of abuse."

"We are deeply aware of the great damage caused to women by abortion since they had already bonded as mothers with their unborn babies. The Church wishes to help them in coping with their loss and grief," said the Bishops.