Celebrating 20 years of Abortion in South Africa
This year marks the twentieth anniversary for the implementation of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy (CTOP) Act in South Africa. Former Minister of Health, Dr. ME Tshabalala-Msimang praised the Act as an important piece of legislation aimed at improving Women’s lives in the country: “By allowing all women the right to choose whether to terminate their pregnancies within certain specified parameters, South Africa has embarked on a journey to bring access to safe abortions to all women, in order to prevent morbidity and mortality associated with unsafe, illegal ‘back street’ abortions.”
Medical doctors play a vital role in abortion provision as they are the only individuals legally allowed to provide second trimester abortions in South Africa. However, lack of formal training and sensitization in medical schools is a global phenomenon, with almost a quarter of medical schools in the United States of America (USA) not offering formal abortion training in its Obstetrics and Gynaecology rotations, according to an article published during 2005 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
A South African based study by Wheeler SB found that almost a third of medical students feel that they will be discriminated against if they provided abortions, whilst a tenth of students would not refer a patient under any circumstances to another legal facility, which is a direct violation of the CTOP Act.
The South African Medical Students Associations (SAMSA), Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health including HIV/AIDS (SCORA) held a Workshop on 3 June 2017 at the University of the Witwatersrand to celebrate 20 years of Abortion in South Africa.
The workshop, which was sponsored by Marie Stopes South Africa, was attended by medical and post-graduate students, researchers, psychologists and experts in the field of sexual and reproductive health, and obstetrics and gynaecology.
Ms. Whitney Chinogwenya, who is the Brand and Communications Lead at Marie Stopes South Africa, raised the importance of creating platforms such as these for the youth and future health care leaders.
“One of the challenges presented by stigma is that there simply aren’t enough trained provides who are willing and able to provide abortions, especially in the second trimester. It is important that we help the next generation of clinicians to be pro-choice, to be equipped and informed on safe abortion and the role it plays in holistic reproductive healthcare,” she said.
Presenters at the workshop shared their personal experiences in clinical practise, and discussed an array of topics on barriers to legal abortion provision, ethics and patient care as well as family planning and contraceptive counselling. The presenters were:
- Ms Shenilla Mohamed, Director of Amnesty International South Africa
- Professor Roland Mhlanga, Co-Lead at Global Doctors for Choice South Africa
- Professor Elna McIntosh, Founder and Clinical Sexologist at Disa Clinic
- Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, Deputy Chairperson of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition
“The speakers were phenomenal and inspired us as medical students to be aware of apathy towards patients. Once we start implementing our great policies, the face of health care in South Africa will be changed.” Said Chairperson of the SAMSA-Wits Chapter, fifth-year Medical student, Ms. Lerato Mahakoe.
Event organisers, Ms. Thobile Dlalisa, Ms. Ayanda Sengane and Mr. Vikar Singh echoed the workshop as an excellent opportunity for attendees to learn from Leaders in Sexual and Reproductive Health, who have paved the way for future activists to advocate for the rights of women and men to access optimal healthcare services.
In addition, they thanked the event sponsor, presenters and their represented organisations, pharmaceutical companies and all attendees for their time and efforts in making the workshop a success.