To: The Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi and All Provincial MEC’s of Health
Tell the government to provide adequate information on free safe, legal abortion.
Dear Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and All Provincial MEC’s of Health,
Everyday on our streets we see hundreds of posters advertising unsafe, illegal abortions yet there is no information on the state facilities that offer free safe, legal abortions. We have grown tired of seeing women and girls losing their lives to unsafe, illegal abortions. We demand access to adequate information on free safe, legal abortions.
We the undersigned demand that you set up an action group that will steer forward the urgent implementation of our demands. This action group should be made up of experts from the Department of Health and volunteers from interest groups and concerned NGO’s.
We demand a national assessment and review of the existing 505 health facilities designated to provide free safe, legal abortions. We demand a detailed public report on the state and functionality of existing facilities nationwide, the report must give recommendations on improvements that the department should implement in order to improve access to free safe, legal abortion.
We demand that you set up a national online database that will have an up to date list of all functioning facilities that offer free safe, legal abortions. The online database must be updated on a monthly basis with accurate information on facilities including the services they offer, their physical addresses and their contact details.
Once the database has been set up, we demand that the Department of Health engage in a thorough media campaign to publicize and raise awareness on the availability of the data base and how women can use it to their advantage, this in order to ensure that these interventions truly achieve their objectives.
Why is this important?
In 2017 Akhona Matyeni* a matric learner from rural Umthatha, lost her life to an illegal abortion. Akhona bled to death after taking what she knew to be abortion pills, purchased for R200 from an unknown man who's phone number she had found on a poster on the streets of Umthatha. Akhona did not know that she could access a safe, legal abortion for free at a government hospital or clinic she was just desperate to ensure that nothing came between her and obtaining an education.
According to the World Health Organization up to 13% of deaths among pregnant women can be attributed to unsafe abortions. Despite the fact that abortion is legal in South Africa, it is estimated that between 52% and 58% of the estimated 260 000 abortions that take place in the country every year are illegal . By South African law a legal abortion can only be performed by a midwife, a registered nurse trained for the procedure, a general practitioner or a gynecologist.
Many South African women and girls remain unaware of the law and the services they are entitled to. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics reveals that, in a sample of 50 South African women who had terminated pregnancies illegally/outside of designated facilities. Over 50% admitted they had done so because they "did not know the law". A further 15% said they knew their rights but they did not know where to access safe, legal abortions .
Access to safe abortions saves women's lives everyday. A lack of information shouldn't stand in the way of that. In South Africa poor provision of adequate information remains one of the main barriers for women who seek safe, legal abortions. As things stand it is much easier for women to access information on unsafe, illegal abortions than it is to access information on the free safe, legal abortions that our government is constitutionally obligated to provide.
In 2017 Amnesty International reported that less than 7% of South Africa's 3 880 public health facilities perform termination of pregnancy. This is a figure that is far less than the 505 medical facilities that the Department of Health claims to have designated to perform termination of pregnancy across South Africa . This indicates that beyond the issue of the lack of available information on safe, legal abortion facilities, there is the issue of the Department of Health itself not having accurate information on the functionality of its own facilities.
An investigation into the functionality of existing facilities is imperative for us to ascertain exactly how many facilities are available and what their capacity is. A national online abortion database will ensure that every woman has direct access to information on where and how they can access a free safe, legal abortion. These interventions will save lives by drastically decreasing the number of illegal abortions taking place in our country and putting an end to the desperation that forces women to undergo unsafe, illegal abortions.
We call on the public to take a stand and put pressure on our government to make these important interventions in order to save the lives of women who are turning to unsafe, illegal abortions everyday because of a lack of information. We call on you to stand with us as we demand reproductive justice for all!
*Not her real name
 SAnews. (2018). SA's illegal abortion rate alarmingly high. [online] Available at: https://www.sanews.gov.za/south-africa/sas-illegal-abortion-rate-alarmingly-high [Accessed 6 Sep. 2018].
 Tshangela, L. (2018). Only 40% of public clinics provide abortions: Study - [online] SABC News - Breaking news, special reports, world, business, sport coverage of all South African current events. Africa's news leader. Available at: http://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/only-40-of-public-clinics-provide-abortions-study/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2018].
 Dyk, J. (2018). When there was no list of free abortion clinics, we made our own. Here's how.. [online] Bhekisisa. Available at: https://bhekisisa.org/article/2017-11-10-00-mind-the-gap-only-5-of-health-facilities-offer-abortions-heres-how-to-find-them [Accessed 6 Sep. 2018].
How it will be delivered
We plan to hand deliver the petition to the office of the Minister of Health Aaron Motswoaledi and to email it to all provincial MEC’s of Health.