SABC News, Parliament approves law to extend abortion services, 19 August 2004

Parliament approved a controversial law today making it easier for women to have abortions by giving more medical staff the right to perform them. Abortion was legalised in 1996 and more than 250 000 legal terminations have been carried out since then.

South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV/Aids in the world, with one in nine people believed to be infected. "It gives women an opportunity to decide about their own lives," Vumile Ngculu, the chairperson of parliament's health committee said of the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill.

"In the current act some provisions were too complicated to allow women to access services," he added.

The bill, which must still be ratified by parliament's second house, will allow registered nurses, and not just doctors and trained midwives, to carry out abortions at approved clinics and hospitals.

The bill has faced fierce opposition from religious groups and some minority political parties, who argue it may help abortion to become used as merely another form of contraception. "The FF Plus finds it tragic that the ANC only places emphasis on the right of women to choose, but babies are not given a say or a choice," Connie Mulder, a Freedom Front Plus lawmaker, said. - Reuters




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