Abortion service provision in South Africa three years after liberalization of the law

Stud Fam Plann. 2003 Dec;34(4):277-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4465.2003.00277.x.


In 1996, South Africa introduced legislation that liberalized women's access to termination of pregnancy. This study presents the findings of a survey undertaken to describe the availability and accessibility of abortion services in 1999, three years after the law was passed. All facilities that had been officially designated to perform these services were contacted by telephone to determine whether they were providing the services, their capacity, whether they were performing second-trimester as well as first-trimester terminations, and how long women had to wait for these services. Nationally, 292 facilities had been designated, but in 1999 only 32 percent were functioning. Of the functioning facilities, 27 percent were in the private sector. Mapping of available services indicated that substantial parts of the country were entirely without such services. Half of the country's induced abortions were being performed in Gauteng province, although only 19 percent of women of reproductive age were living there. This finding indicates that service provision in other provinces was inadequate or lacking. Although in the first years following the new legislation efforts were made to establish abortion services, this study reveals gross inequality in service availability. Strategies for improving coverage are suggested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Data Collection
  • Health Care Reform / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • South Africa