Abortion in South Africa: A Reporting Guide for Journalists

Today, access to safe abortion in South Africa may be a right for all, but it remains out of reach for many. Although the country has thousands of public clinics and hospitals, those providing termination of pregnancy services number in the mere hundreds. More than 20 years after South Africa’s landmark Act, we know that safe abortion saves lives. But it’s so stigmatised that, even when local health facilities do provide terminations,the humiliation women face from staff is enough to drive them to illegal abortions anyway.

If a friend asked you right now for help on where she could access a free, safe abortion would you know what to say? Many of us don’t, and that’s a problem because as a journalist, your story could be the only information a person hears about safe abortion all year.

But don’t worry, we got you. The subject matter covered in this manual is based on input from almost a dozen journalists from the country’s leading media houses across print, radio and TV following a February 2018 media training workshop held by the Bhekisisa Mail & Guardian Centre for Health Journalism and Global Health Strategies. It’s not meant to be read from cover-to-cover. Use what you need when you need it – so that may be as a go-to source to help you explain when abortion is legal in South Africa and who can provide it, or to help you explain how abortions actually work (page 14), for instance. Stuck on how to explain medical terms? Maybe you want to cut and paste some handy definitions from page 4. Need a story for that morning diary meeting? See page 27 for some.

Because a woman’s Constitutional right to choose means nothing if she doesn’t know about it.