February 2005

Medical abortion: The possibilities for introduction in the public sector in South Africa

Cooper D, Dickson K, Blanchard K, Cullingworth L, Mavimbela N, von Mollendorf C, van Bogaert L, Winikoff B. Medical Abortion: The possibilities for introduction in the public sector in South Africa. Reproductive Health Matters. February 2005; 13(26):35-43.

Medical abortion is safe and effective and has been approved for use in early termination of pregnancy in South Africa since 2001. The Department of Health is currently considering its introduction in the public health sector. The attitudes of women seeking abortion and of health care providers towards medical abortion have not previously been described. Data were derived from a quantitative survey of 673 women attending abortion services in the provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape. In-depth interviews in Soweto and Cape Town were conducted with 20 public health doctors, nurses, a social worker and facility managers, and in Cape Town with four provincial policymakers. Although medical abortion was not yet being offered, 21% of women interviewed were early enough in pregnancy (eight weeks or less) to be eligible for medical abortion. Access to health facilities, including those for abortion, was reasonable for urban women but more limited for rural women. Rural women also incurred greater travel costs to reach a facility. Most women thought medical abortion would be acceptable and would have been willing to try it, had it been available. Policymakers and providers were supportive, as they felt medical abortion could relieve the burden on current services. How to increase access to abortion services in rural areas needs to be addressed.

Tagged with Abortion, South Africa