Safe & Legal Abortion is an SRH Right: Save Adolescent Girls & Young Women Lives, Act Now!

 # Safe Abortion


� Unwanted pregnancies have a profound effect on the lives of women and girls; their ability and right to make choices about their lives. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), safe abortions are one of the safest and simplest medical procedures in existence. Yet, with abortion mostly illegal and highly frowned upon in most Southern African countries, unsafe abortion accounts for 10% to 13% of maternal mortality in the region.

� In the Southern African attitudes survey, nearly half (45% women and 44% men) said they agreed or strongly agreed that a woman had a right to terminate her pregnancy within the first trimester. Attitudes towards abortion are changing!

� 28 September is International Safe Abortion Day. The day was first celebrated as a day of action for decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1990. In 2011, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) declared 28 September as an international day. The day’s name was changed to International Safe Abortion Day in 2015. 2016 was the biggest International Safe Abortion Day ever celebrated.1

� From 5 to 9 November, SADC senior officials and Ministers of Health will meet in Windhoek, Namibia to adopt the revised SADC SRHR Strategy 2019-2030 and its related score card.

� This takes place against the backdrop of the global #Women’sMarch; #MeToo; #TimesUp and related regional campaigns such as the #IWearWhatILike and #TotalShutdown.

� The 2018 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer put a spotlight on the inter-linked gender justice issues of our time including menstrual health, comprehensive sexual education, teenage pregnancies, safe abortion, maternal health, GBV, HIV and Aids, and sexual diversity.

� SAfAIDS, cluster lead of the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance, is leading the campaign for preventing unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. This is part of the SAfAIDS Transforming Lives – Time for Change, Time for Action campaign supported by Sweden. SAfAIDS calls for policy changes to enable women to make choices about their bodies.









Abortion on demand (yes/no)

Conditions under which an abortion may be granted


Childs life


Time frame




Post abortion care


Mothers life

Mothers Mental state


South Africa

Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act No. 1 of 20082

Yes – specifies available to any woman who wants to terminate out of choice, including counselling.





Within the first trimester.

Right to terminate without consent of other parties apart from medical practitioners.



Amended Penal Code






On demand up to 12 weeks;

incest, up to 16 weeks; foetal anomalies, up to 24 weeks.

A certified practitioner must

perform the termination at designated facilities.3



















Termination of Pregnancy Act of


If conception is deemed


Only under circumstances where the life of the


Where the child will suffer from


A magistrate must grant


Yes – In 2012, policy approved for women







1977, Chapter 15: 104



Termination of Pregnancy Act, 13  No October 1972


unlawful (instances of rape). mother is in danger.


✓ If the pregnancy will cause death.




✓ Mental or physical damage to the woman.


complications after birth.


✓Child at risk of mental and physical deformities.





Once three medical practitioners have agreed.


who undergo illegal abortions to receive medical post-abortion care without being referred to the police.








Penal Code (Amendment) Act,   No


✓Rape or incest.


✓ If the mother’s life is at risk or may cause harm ✓Where a woman has been deemed


✓ If the unborn child will suffer  Termination has to be                                                            No


1991 – Section 160


to her mentally.


to be an idiot or an imbecile as per


or later develop physical or  performed before 16











The Penal Code (2010)6                     No




Criminal Code Amendment Act 20127


✓ If pregnant due to incest or rape.


✓To save the life of a pregnant woman.



✓ To save the life of a pregnant woman; or from permanent physical damage.


the Immorality Act of 1957, which makes sex with her illegal.


mental abnormality.

✓ To prevent the birth of a child who will be seriously physically or mentally handicapped.

✓ If the foetus may suffer

severe malformation or abnormalities.








The pregnancy is within 14 weeks and the girl is younger than the age of 16.



Performed by a registered         No medical professional, with the written opinion of another registered medical professional.







Abortion and Sterilization Act 2 of  No


Where two other medical


✓The pregnancy poses a threat to the physical  ✓Where a woman has been deemed


✓ The unborn child is at risk of


Two medical practitioners must  No




practitioners confirm that the woman has been raped or is a victim of incest.


and mental health of the pregnant.


to be an idiot or an imbecile as per the Immorality Act of 1957, which makes sex with her illegal.8


a serious mental or physical deformity and handicap.


approve in writing that the pregnancy is a risk.










Termination of Pregnancy Act,     No




Penal Code10


When a woman’s life is deemed to be in danger

or if the cost of carrying the foetus is greater than the pregnant woman’s physical and mental health.


Woman is at risk of death, pregnancy threatens





Pregnancy threatens the mental and


Termination can be carried out

if the child is at risk of serious mental and physical deformities.9


If three medical practitioners      No

agree in good faith, termination can be undertaken at Victoria Hospital, Mahe.



the mental and physical wellbeing of the woman.  physical wellbeing of the pregnant






The Constitution


Only possible where the life of the pregnant                                                                                                                                                                                                                     No

woman is in danger.11













Penal Code and The Law            No Commission of Malawi has drafted

the Termination of Pregnancy Bill to legalise safe abortion for women in the event of incest, rape or severe foetal abnormalities.12 Penal Code 201413


Currently, Malawi only allows abortion to save a woman’s life.





Termination only permissible to save the life of a






















The Constitution



Abortion is illegal except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger.14





10                                                                           No




14 (UN Publication)







Reproductive Health and Family


Abortion under any


In Criminal Procedure law, an abortion can be                                                                                                                                                                                                                               No


Planning Law 2017


circumstance remains illegal. performed to save the life of a woman.


The mapping of laws shows that

� All SADC countries provide for abortion in some circumstances, but this ranges from South Africa and Mozambique, where abortion is available on demand, to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius and Namibia, where abortion is only available in certain circumstances; to Seychelles, Tanzania, eSwatini, Malawi, Angola and DRC where abortion is only available in extremely limited circumstances, to Madagascar, where abortion is almost totally outlawed.

� In South Africa, despite strong pro-abortion laws, access to the service remains a challenge, with only 7% of the country’s health facilities providing abortions.15 Research shows that many health workers refuse to perform the procedure, with government unable to do anything about it. Information about where and how to acquire the service remains limited.16

�In Lesotho, government acknowledges the devastating effects of illegal backyard abortions on girls and women but still will not relent to make abortion legal in the country. Instead, it surreptitiously advises women to go across the border into South Africa where abortion is legal. The irony is not lost on human rights lawyer Lineo Tsikoane, who has said of the Ministry of Health: “They know abortion is illegal, but they’re telling us to advise girls to go elsewhere, and [yet] won’t change our own law.”

�The most common circumstances in which abortion is provided for are incest and rape; related to that, threat to the mother’s mental well-being. Evidence of possible child deformities may also be grounds for abortion.

� While allowing for abortion in limited circumstances, Zimbabwe passed

a law in 2012 that allows for post-abortion care. A much more cost




#She Decides











effective option would be to provide for safe abortion.

� It is clear that many of the laws governing abortion in SADC are inherited from the colonial era and are out of sync with modern rights-based laws. For example the Abortion and Sterilization Act 2 of 1975 in Namibia dates back to 1975. One of the few grounds for abortion is where “a woman has been deemed to be an idiot or an imbecile as per the Immorality Act of 1957, which makes sex with her illegal.”

� On 24 February 2018, Angola‘s parliament approved an amendment to the abortion law, making all abortions, without exception, illegal and punishable by between four to ten years’ imprisonment. This is part of the process of replacing Angola’s 1886 penal code. Parliamentary debate on the amendment stalled following a public outcry over it, leading to the ruling party proposing a revised version of the legal amendment. The revised version retained the legality of abortion in cases of rape or maternal health risk.17

� In December 2017, Madagascar passed the Reproductive Health and


Family Planning Law after many years of advocacy to revoke colonial policy that prohibited promotion of contraception. The law recognises reproductive health and family planning as basic human rights for all, irrespective of age. It defines “counselling and family planning services for sexually active teens, married or unmarried” as one of the necessary reproductive health services. The law also provides for family planning education and outreach, community-based distribution of services, improved family planning technical capacity in health facilities, and availability of commodities, including emergency contraception.”18 But parliament rejected efforts by the Ministry of Public Health to make amendments to the family planning law to allow for therapeutic abortion. As a result, abortion remains illegal in Madagascar under all circumstances, with virtually no exception.


Increasingly, women have turned to social media, in particular Facebook, to look for illegal abortion services. This can lead to serious complications and death if they receive the service from unqualified people and in unhygienic conditions (CNN 2018).








15  Skosana, I (2017), ‘Less than 7% of health facilities nationwide offer abortions – Amnesty International’, available at: 02-14-00-only-260-health-facilities-nationwide-offer-abortions-amnesty-international/ (accessed 11 June 2018)

16  Amnesty International (2018), Amnesty International Report 2017/2018, Amnesty International, London

17  The Citizen (2017), ‘Angola Backs Down on Total Abortion Ban’ available at abortion-ban/ (accessed 1 April 2018)

18 Accessed 20 June 2018

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