Summary of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, no. 92 of 1996

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This Act sets out the circumstances under which a woman may terminate a pregnancy. Abortion or termination of pregnancy (TOP) has been legalised in recognition of a person’s right to make decisions about their bodies, the right to safe, effective, affordable and effective methods of fertility regulation and the right to choose whether to have a safe abortion according to individual beliefs.

[edit] When Is it Legal for a Pregnancy to be Terminated?

There are three circumstances for which TOP is legal:

1. A woman can request a registered medical practitioner or midwife to perform an abortion during the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy.

2. From the 13th up to and including the 20th week of the pregnancy, TOP will be legal only if a medical doctor consulted with the pregnant woman and found that:

  • her physical or mental health will be harmed if the pregnancy continues;
  • the baby will suffer from a severe physical or mental abnormality;
  • the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest; or
  • the woman’s social or economic circumstances will be damaged if she has the baby.
Who has to consent to the abortion?
  • The woman must agree to the abortion unless she is incapable of doing so (for example, if she is mentally ill or unconscious).
  • Minors do not need their parents’ assistance or permission to have a legal TOP, although practitioners should advise them to consult with their family before the procedure.
  • A woman does not need the father’s consent.

3. After 20 weeks, a legal TOP is only possible in very exceptional and life-threatening circumstances, on which at least two medical practitioners must agree.

[edit] What Is the State’s responsibility?

There is a duty on the Department of Health to provide abortions free of charge at certain State medical facilities and to provide counselling for women. However, medical personnel who have any personal objection to performing an abortion can choose not to do so, but they must then refer the woman to another practitioner. Although medical institutions must keep records of TOP procedures performed, the patients’ information must remain confidential at all times.

Private institutions can also perform abortions for women. They must offer a full examination and counselling before performing the procedure and must adhere to confidentially requirements.

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