A Private Member's Bill, proposed by the African Christian Democratic Party may have severe consequences on women's reproductive rights in South Africa, if passed.
The Bill proposes that:
- It be illegal to have an abortion after 13 weeks, unless there are severe health risks to the mother
- It be illegal to have an abortion even if the pregnancy is risky to the foetus
- Counselling before an abortion. Counselling must include information relating to the state of the development of the foetus, including the provision of electronic diagrams and photographs.
- Doctors perform ultrasound scans to ascertain how far along a woman seeking an abortion is. The ACDP argues that making this type of scan would assist abortion seekers "make an informed choice."
As it stands, through the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act introduced in 1996, a woman may have an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy. However, the Act also makes provision for an abortion from the 13th to the 20th week, if the pregnancy is considered risky to the mother or would "significantly affect" her "social or economic circumstances."
Some women's rights organisations say the bill does not, amongst other things, take into consideration different circumstances that may lead to a woman wanting an abortion past the 12th week. For example, a pregnancy out of sexual assault that a woman may not wish to see through, the financial position of the mother which may render her unable to support a new infant and an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy found later than the 12th week.
Access to health care facilities with ultrasound machines and access to counselling services for women living in marginalised areas is also a real challenge some feel the Bill does not fully consider. The concern is that this may force women to seek backstreet abortions.
"Instead of this proposal by ACDP, we should be directing our energy towards enhancing access and women's lives and health," said Amandla.mobi's petition against the bill.
Some women who disagree with the amendment have taken to social media, encouraging other women to sign the petition:
Happy women's day! You can also commemorate by signing this petition to protect women's right to choose. https://t.co/TqvqldxI3M— Mmabatho Montsho (@MmabathoMontsho) August 9, 2017
Public comment on the Bill is open until the end of Women's Day, the 9th of August.