Working for access to quality public healthcare in South Africa since 1998
15 August 2017

SECTION27 and TAC oppose proposed amendment to abortion Act

JOHANNESBURG, 15th AUGUST 2017 – SECTION27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have made a joint submission opposing the draft amendments to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 92 of 1996 (TOP Act) as proposed by the African Christian Democratic Party. We reject this amendment in the strongest terms.

It is our view that the proposed amendment to the draft Bill aims to limit women’s ability to access safe abortions in health facilities around the country. This would therefore limit, without justification, a woman’s constitutional right to equality; dignity; bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction; privacy; and access to healthcare services, including reproductive healthcare.

In light of past gender discrimination, our Constitution requires that legislative measures seek to advance women’s rights, not reverse them. Reproductive freedom is an important feature of our constitutional democracy. Our Constitution recognises that women have control over their bodies and reproductive capacities. This is located in a woman’s right to bodily integrity[1] and reproductive decision-making[2] as well as the right to dignity[3]. Forcing women to carry a foetus to term is an invasion of these rights.

The draft Bill seeks to introduce fear and shame into the counselling process by requiring that women be exposed to images of a foetus, including electronic pictures, diagrams and photographs. The draft Bill also seeks to use the informed consent framework to further limit access to termination of pregnancy services by fundamentally altering the counselling framework from the current “non-mandatory and non-directive counselling” to “mandatory and non-directive counselling”. The proposal to force counselling upon women who seek an abortion, not only violates a woman’s dignity, but may serve as a barrier to access. This contradicts the rationale of the TOP Act, which is to provide important reproductive health services to women in a way that respects their dignity.

The proposals in the draft private member’s Bill seek to roll back advances in sexual and reproductive health rights gained by women in South Africa since our democracy. In our view, the draft Bill would not pass constitutional muster if it was challenged in court. We therefore strongly recommend that this private member’s Bill be rejected by Parliament.

 

For more information, please contact:

Ntsiki Mpulo, SECTION27 011 356 4100 mpulo@section27.org.za

Lotti Rutter, Treatment Action Campaign 072 225 9675 or lotti.rutter@tac.org.za

 

[1] Section 12(2)(b) of the Constitution.

[2] Section 12(2)(a) and section 27(1)(a) of the Constitution.

[3] Section 10 of the Constitution.