Western Cape Health adds seven new abortion facilities

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Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo has authorised the addition of seven new facilities to provide safe, legal termination of pregnancy to women across the Western Cape, says a Cape Argus report. This amid calls for improved access to facilities where pregnancy can be terminated safely to curb the need to seek out illegal and unsafe terminations, which often result in maternal death and infection.

The report says the MEC’s authorisation will lead to the establishment of additional clinics in the City of Cape Town and in the Langeberg, Drakenstein and Witzenberg municipalities – another step by government in protecting women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.

The province currently has 103 public health care facilities that render the service free of charge, in addition to 22 private clinics.

However, 23 years after the legalisation of abortion in South Africa, and in spite of the availability of many safe facilities for women to undergo the procedure, and progressive legal frameworks, the report says the stigma surrounding abortion has continued to prevent scores of women from approaching government facilities.

This was after a newborn baby was found discarded in bush at Kuyasa, Khayelitsha, and a foetus was found in a communal toilet in Nontobeko Street near the Better Life informal settlement in KTC, Gugulethu. Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said an inquest docket had been opened after the discovery of the foetus, and no arrests had been made. Community members said it was not uncommon to make such gruesome findings in drains, bush or toilets, as young girls still turned to having their pregnancies terminated illegally, and were given medication to bring to their homes that caused them to abort small foetuses, that they discarded for fear of discovery.

Sinazo Vakala, 48, (not her real name) said in the report that her teenage daughter nearly died two years ago after taking a suspect abortion pill. “I had moved to Johannesburg for a job for a year, and left my three kids with their father, and I got a call from my husband one night, saying that he had to rush our 15-year-old to the hospital because she had been bleeding a lot and complained of stomach aches,” she said. “Only for me to get here and find out that she had been pregnant and had received an abortion pill from someone claiming to be a doctor in Bellville, and took it and came home, where she almost died.

“I think society, and us as parents, need to play a more active role in not only talking to our kids about these things but educating them about the safe options they have.”

The report says from as little as R500, a man calling himself “Dr Kim” indicated that he could supply a pill causing “womb cleaning” in under an hour in pregnancies under 16 weeks, with the price going up for every month after that threshold.

Spokesperson for the MEC, Nomawethu Sobukwana said: “Women are advised to go for safe, legal abortions rather than ‘backstreet’ abortions that are likely to endanger their health and their lives.”

According to the national Health Department, 105,358 illegal abortions were carried out in the Western Cape in 2016/17.

Cape Argus report (subscription needed)

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