Amnesty International demanded for safe abortions for SA women and girls. The demand follows a research it conducted with Women’s Health Research Unit of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town.
According to the findings of the study, SA women and girls risk unsafe abortions that lead to serious health complications and death due to persistent barriers to legal abortion services.
Acknowledging that South Africa have one of the world’s most progressive legal frameworks for abortion, the research unveiled that many SA women and girls, especially those in the poorest and most marginalized communities, struggle to access safe abortion services.
It was identified that government’s failure to regulate the practice of ‘conscientious objection’ through which health professionals can refuse to provide abortion services, is a major factor mitigating against safe abortions for SA women and girls.
Specifying that it’s already 20 years since South Africa adopted the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (CTOPA), the study observed that the implementation of CTOPA is inadequate.
That, it further observed, could result in violations of SA government’s obligations under international human rights law.
“Under regional and international human rights standards, South Africa has a duty to ensure that conscientious objection does not impact on access to services and that a functioning referral process guarantees timely and appropriate quality care to every person seeking an abortion,” stated Amnesty International.
Commenting, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda wailed that the lack of clear policy guidelines to service providers creates a vacuum and allows conscientious objection to be applied inconsistently.
“A woman’s right to life, health and dignity must always take precedence over the right of a health care professional to exercise conscientious objection to performing an abortion.
This is not the reality in South Africa. Regulation and clear policy guidelines are urgently required to correct the current vacuum.”
No one, regardless of their social status, should be denied their right to make a decision about their pregnancy…deep inequalities in the health system continue to discriminate against impoverished women and girls.
The National Department of Health must urgently intervene to ensure women and girls’ access to abortion is no longer at the mercy of health professionals’ personal attitudes.”
With the foregoing, Amnesty International demanded of the authorities of South Africa to issue clear guidelines and protocols to all health care professionals and health facility management in order to clarify the limits of conscientious objection.
Also, Amnesty International demanded of the authorities to enforce the ethical duties of health care professionals prioritizing the right of women and girls to access health care.
“Anyone who exercises their right to conscientious objection must provide accurate information and referrals as well as emergency services when required,” championed Amnesty International
Amnesty International argued that abortion related deaths and injuries declined by over 90% since the CTOPA came into force on 1 February 1997.
With that, it warned based on the stipulations of CTOPA that any person who prevents or obstructs access to legal abortion services is guilty of an offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
If you aren’t aware, CTOPA handed SA women and girls the right to have an abortion on request until the 12th week of pregnancy and with certain conditions before the 20th week.