SOUTH AFRICA – Anti-abortion doctor accused of trying to dissuade a woman from having a legal abortion

Jacques De Vos, a doctor,has been accused of trying to dissuade a patient from terminating her pregnancyand of failing to respect the patient’s autonomy. He pleaded not guilty to the chargesat a disciplinary hearing at the Health Professions Council of South Africa on9 December 2019. His counsel argued that the doctor was acting in the bestinterests of both the mother and the baby “by trying to save the life of ahealthy unborn child”. The committee heard that he was trying to prevent themother from authorising any other doctor to provide the abortion because, heclaimed, it would create a risk of physical and/or psychological effects on her.

De Vos is a member of an anti-abortiondoctors group. Two further charges relatedto De Vos allegedly handing out pamphlets to colleagues and patients promotinghis religious beliefs, and of failing to remain objective when advocating forcontraceptives and not acting in the best interest of his patients, weredismissed. The prosecutor did not agree with the dismissal of these charges andsaid he was taking that decision on review. The doctor, who is still an intern,has waited over two years for the hearing to take place. The remaining twocharges will be taken in April 2020.

It is rare for a doctor to be charged for refusing toprovide an abortion in a country where it is legal. Let’s hope it sets aprecedent.

SOURCES: Daily Maverick, by Karabo Mafolo, 10 December2019 ; IOL, by Mwangi Githahu, 5 December 2019 + VISUAL