The Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27 say they are opposing a new bill by the African Christian Democratic Party that insists women who want an abortion must have ultrasounds first.
The bill was written by MP Cherrylyn Dudley‚ under advice from conservative group Doctors for Life.
The bill wants the law to change so that women may no longer qualify for an abortion after 12 weeks‚ if their social and economic circumstances mean they cannot have the child.
It also wants counselling of women wanting an abortion to be mandatory rather than voluntary.
The counselling could include making the woman look at pictures or photos of foetuses.
In South Africa‚ abortion is legal until 12 weeks and then from 12 to 20 weeks if a mother’s social and economic circumstances do not allow it‚ as well as if the pregnancy endangers the mother’s health or if the foetus is not developing properly or if the child was conceived as a result of rape.
But the new bill wants to remove the clause about social and economic circumstances saying doctors cannot judge if these are affecting the women asking for an abortion.
The Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27 say forcing a woman to look at photographs of babies or foetuses would “introduce fear and shame into the counselling process”.
They also say the lack of ultrasounds in clinics across the country would mean abortions couldn’t take place limiting their access for women.
The period for comment on the bill closed on Friday. The bill will then be modified and introduced into a parliamentary private members committee for debate in which more comments can take place.
Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign made joint submissions opposing the bill.
In a statement the two groups said: “It is our view that the proposed amendment to the draft Bill aims to limit women’s ability to access safe abortions in health facilities around the country. This would therefore limit‚ without justification‚ a woman’s constitutional right to equality; dignity; bodily and psychological integrity‚ which includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction; privacy; and access to healthcare services‚ including reproductive healthcare.”
The two groups say the bill will not pass constitutional muster in court.
“We therefore strongly recommend that this private member’s Bill be rejected by Parliament.”
The TAC and Section 27 argue that forcing a person to carry a foetus to term is a violation of constitutional rights to bodily integrity and reproductive decision making.
Christian View Network‚ a conservative group‚ and supporters of Doctors for Life have said that an ultrasound machine costs only R4‚500 and should be available at clinics around the country.
Source: TMG Digital.