South Africa has one of the most liberal abortion legislation in the world. But this has not translated to easy access to abortion. Many women still struggle to get the services. fWhen they do, they are faced with bad attitudes from healthcare workers, as well as stigma.
In June 2021, Lesego Ntswai (21), went to the Seaparankwe Makapanstad clinic in the North West province to get an abortion.
She was told that the pills that the clinic prescribed for termination of pregnancy were all accounted for – she would have to wait for the facility to get more in stock.
“I was told to come back after four weeks,” Ntswai recalls. “At that time I was 10 weeks pregnant. My hormones were all over the place and I was starting to show. I didn’t know how I would survive until then.”
The following day Nstwai travelled nearly 80 kms to Sunnyside in Pretoria central. She called a number that she saw an advert on an electric pole.
The advert read: “quick safe same day abortions”.
Nstwai says that she was not aware that this was an illegal provider until she entered the room where the abortion would take place.
“By that time there was no turning back.”
There she was charged R600 for an abortion and by the end of the day she was no longer pregnant.
“Private providers are expensive. I went to one before going to Seaparankwe clinic and was told to pay R2000 of which I didn’t have,” she says.
“It’s very hard to get help in our clinics, you will be shamed and made to feel like what you want to do it’s bad.”
According to the Choice on Termination of pregnancy act 1996 every woman has the right to choose to have an abortion. But access to abortion services is especially difficult for women like Nstwai who live in rural areas such as Moretele Local Municipality in the North West province. Here women from 26 villages have only one clinic, Seaparankwe clinic in Makapanstad that offers abortions.
But not all women who go to this clinic have a bad experience.
Ndlelehle Ntuli (30) from Mamelodi travelled all the way from the east of Pretoria late July to this clinic and says the service was excellent. She made the journey because she didn’t want to face the nurses where she is from.
The North West Department of Health spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane says that normally every subdistrict has between one and two facilities that provide abortion services. Moretele, a subdistrict of Bojanala, is no different.
Lekgethwane says termination of pregnancy is a specialised service that requires trained and competent personnel to administer. “As we expand services in the province we will review if there’s a need for more facilities that provide these services,” he says. – Health-e News