SOUTH AFRICA – International human rights norms and the South African Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act: an argument for vigilance and modernisation

by Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, Ebenezer Durojaye

South African Journal on Human Rights 8 April 2019

The right to access abortion services as an integral component of the right to sexual and reproductive health has been increasingly recognised in the field of international human rights law. However, much more progress is necessary to realise this right in practice. The work of the United Nations human rights bodies and more recently the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been instrumental in signalling the importance of the legal framework and in setting clear guidelines to steer countries into reforming national laws in order to comply with their international obligations. This article explores the extent to which the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy and the amendment Bill submitted by the African Christian Democratic Party comply with international human rights norms. Our analysis reveals that (i) the South African state has fallen short in adopting a legal framework that complies with the international human rights norms and (ii) the proposed bill would constitute a retrogressive measure and its adoption would violate the state’s obligations under international human rights law. In sum, this article makes an argument for the modernisation of the South African abortion law and for careful vigilance of the proposed legislative amendments.


INFOGRAPHIC, by Treatment Action Campaign, 28 May 2018