If you have an unwanted pregnancy, having the foetus removed by means of an abortion is one of the options that you have, apart from having the baby or having it adopted.
According to the law, this is your decision and you do not have to inform anyone of your intention.
Abortion has been legal in South Africa since 1994. According to the law you are entitled to have a free abortion at a government hospital or clinic during the first three months of pregnancy.
About a third of hospitals and clinics perform these operations.
So what do you do and where can you go? A good start would be your GP, gynaecologist or local clinic. Most family planning clinics also can tell you what you need to know. They should be able to give you the information you need about which hospital or clinic you can go to in your area.
The nurse or doctor should also be able to explain the procedure to you in detail. Ask about things like the use of anaesthetics, what you can expect afterwards, possible complications, where you can go for counselling and how soon you can return to work.
If you are less than twelve weeks pregnant, the abortion is done under local or general anaesthetic. If all goes well, you could return to work within a day, feeling little else except a bit lightheaded from the anaesthtics and slight abdominal discomfort.
If you are more than 20 weeks pregnant, however, medication is given to induce contractions of the uterus, as in a normal birth. After this the uterus has to be evacutuated. If there are no complications, you will be absent from work for at least 3 days to a week. Depending on your state of health, you may be required to stay in hospital for a day or two.
In larger cities this will usually not be a problem, but abortions are not always readily performed in the rural areas.
Remember that you have the right to make this decision for yourself.
The Marie Stopes Clinics also do abortions. These nine clinics are situated in the areas surrounding Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The abortions are subsidised and much cheaper than having it done in a private clinic. The cost of the abortions depends on how far the pregnancy has progressed and also on where the clinic is situated. The cost currently fluctuates between R470 and R1 460. For more details you can phone their toll-free number 080011 7785.
Do not consider having a backstreet abortion. They are dangerous, are often performed in unhygienic conditions and can lead to very serious complications such as infertility, or even death. It is much better, and in the long run, a lot cheaper to go to a registered clinic or hospital to have an abortion done. Make informed decisions about your body and your life.
(Health24, updated June 2010)