SOUTH  AFRICA – Tambo Memorial Hospital now offers reproductive health care, and safe, legal abortion services

The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy (CTOP) Act was passed in South Africa in 1996. In 2004 and 2008, amendments to the CTOP Act were made, expanding the access to termination of pregnancy services and provider cadres to include trained nurses. Deaths and complications related to unsafe abortions decreased by over 90% between 1997 and 2002.

New national CTOP guidelines, published in 2019, however, estimated that at least 50% of all abortions were still being done by informal, illegal and unsafe providers. Why is this? Many studies have identified the many barriers to the safe termination of pregnancy in South Africa, including provider bias and opposition, stigma, lack of infrastructure, equipment and/or training of providers at facilities, generally limited knowledge of the legislation, and unmet contraceptive needs.

The Tambo Memorial Hospital opened its Women’s Health Clinic within the hospital after not having offered these services for a long time. The newly opened clinic was officially launched on 17 March 2023, and will offers among other things, family planning, first trimester termination of pregnancy services, and post-termination of pregnancy care services, which includes counselling by a psychologist or social worker to ensure clients cope with post-termination issues.

“If a pregnancy has occurred, a safe solution, in a controlled environment, can now be offered. Healthcare workers in the clinic will ensure that women and girls are well-informed about their reproductive rights and self-care. Information on women’s health, in general, will also be shared,” explained hospital spokesperson, Zoliswa Nzeku. “The clinic aims to reduce the number of maternal deaths and complications that occur because of illegal abortions by offering preventative solutions for unwanted pregnancies via different contraceptive methods.”

The hospital suffered damage to the building, and some injuries and deaths to staff and patients from the explosion of a gas tanker outside the hospital in late December 2022. The clinic may have been part of the redevelopment of the hospital.

SOURCES: Boksburg Advertiser, by Fanie Mthupha, 17 March 2023 + PHOTO by Fanie Mthupha