What you need to know about Safe abortions in South Africa
Terminating your pregnancy (abortion) is your legal right. Marie Stopes South Africa offers safe abortions for unwanted pregnancies up to 20 weeks. Our nurses and doctors are accredited professionals, sexual and reproductive healthcare. Our work is strictly governed by the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (amended 2008), and we adhere to World Health Organisation Guidelines and protocols set out by Marie Stopes International.
Find out more about Marie Stopes, South Africa’s leader in safe abortion and sexual health services here.
The reality is that ‘backstreet’ methods may lead to severe complications, infections causing prolonged absence from work, permanent infertility and, in the most heart-breaking cases, even death. Please know that you never have to feel embarrassed about considering to have an abortion, it’s your legal right, and we are here for you, always.
Termination of pregnancy: Procedures for safe abortions
Depending on the stage of pregnancy, abortion pills or other options may be the right choice for you. Marie Stopes South Africa offers two types of safe abortion procedures:
The Medical Process (often called the safe abortion pills) at a Marie Stopes clinic
Medication abortion is accomplished by using a combination of two medications which work together to terminate a pregnancy. The first pill is called mifepristone (commonly known as the abortion pill.) It stops your ovaries from producing the hormone, progesterone – which is needed for pregnancy. The second pill is called misoprostol and needs to be taken six to 48 hours after taking the first pill has been taken. It causes cramping and bleeding, which results in your uterus being emptied.
The Abortion Procedure (a minor same-day surgical procedure) at a Marie Stopes clinic
Surgical abortion is commonly performed in the first trimester, (up to 12 weeks’ gestation period) – it has a low risk when performed during this timeframe. The procedure can also be performed when you’re in your second trimester (up to 20 weeks). However, the surgery is more complicated if undergone at this point.
Based on the gestation (stage of your pregnancy), our nurses and doctors will recommend what safe abortion procedure is right for you. Marie Stopes prices are affordable and abortion clinics are located across South Africa.
Safe abortion resources
Marie Stopes offers safe abortion resources you need to feel better equipped for a safe abortion. Find out how far along you are with your pregnancy with the icalculate online tool in order to understand your available safe abortion options. Alternatively, browse interesting articles on safe abortions, abortion clinics, safe abortion pills, contraception and other insightful sexual and reproductive health matters here.
Side effects of an abortion
Planning on making an appointment for an abortion? Before proceeding with terminating a pregnancy find a safe abortions provider and be informed about the side effects of an abortion.
Safe abortion FAQs
Providing access to safe abortion and post-abortion care is at the core of our mission.
I just found out that I am pregnant, what are my options?
- You have three options when facing an unplanned pregnancy. You can carry the pregnancy to term and raise a child yourself. You can continue with the pregnancy and place the child for adoption or in foster care, or you can choose to have an abortion to terminate the pregnancy. You must take the time to consider all of your options and discuss the issue with your partner, a friend or a family member (if you feel safe and comfortable doing so). Ultimately the decision of whether or not to continue with the pregnancy should be yours.
What if I want to have an abortion?
- If you choose to have an abortion, ensure you choose a safe and legal provider like us, Marie Stopes South Africa. `there are many unsafe, backstreet abortion providers out there. Coming into our centres is easy, you just need to book an appointment online or call us on 0800 11 77 85. Our team will tell you what to expect and let you know what plans to make for the day of your appointment.
What safe abortion options are there?
- There are two options available to you which are the Marie Stopes Medical Process i.e the safe abortion pill (4-9 weeks) and the Marie Stopes Surgical Abortion (4-20 weeks).
What if I’m not sure I’m pregnant?
- All our centres offer ultrasounds as well as a pregnancy test to confirm if you are pregnant and, if so, the stage of the pregnancy.
At what age is it legal to have an abortion?
- The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act states that a women can have an abortion at any age- you should never be denied the service because of your age. If you’re young we advise you to chat to a trusted adult (a parent, aunt or teacher) and ask someone to accompany you to the centre for your appointment, but this is not required.
Can I get an abortion at Marie Stopes if I am not from South Africa?
- Yes, we can assist women from anywhere in the world. If you are travelling from another country, we may not be able to provide you with the option of the Marie Stopes Medical Process as in requires an in-country follow-up appointment after three weeks.
What will happen during my appointment?
- You will have a consultation with a nurse who will explain your options to you. She or he will take your medical history; it is important to be honest and disclose a full history; your confidentiality is assured. She or he will then perform a physical examination, including a vaginal exam to determine the stage of your pregnancy. This may include an abdominal ultrasound/scan. If you are more than 12 weeks pregnant, your procedure will need to be performed by a doctor. We may need to book an appointment for you to return on a separate day, depending on the doctor’s availability.
Why do you only start offering abortions at 4 weeks?
- Before four weeks, pregnancy can be difficult to detect on a scan or by doing a physical exam. Sometimes even at 4 or 5 weeks, a pregnancy can be too small to detect on a scan, and you may be asked to rebook and visit the centre in another week. This is for your safety.
Why do you stop offering abortions at 20 weeks?
- The law which governs abortion in South Africa restricts procedures at 20 weeks except in some cases where there is a threat to the woman’s health. Marie Stopes South Africa is only designated to provide abortion services for up to 20 weeks.
Safe Abortion Pills vs Surgical Abortion: What are the differences?
Which option is better?
- Neither option is better than the other- it’s a question of both personal choice and medical history that will determine the method that is best for you. Some women say they prefer to finish the procedure in one day; others feel that the medical process more suits their lifestyle. A nurse will provide all the details to help you decide during your consultation.
How do I know which option(s) I am eligible for?
- On the day of your appointment, one of our supportive nurses will offer you a consultation session, including a physical exam. Once the stage of your pregnancy is confirmed you’ll be asked some questions about your medical history- it’s important to provide all of the relevant information requested (i.e. if you have a blood disorder like anaemia or deep vein thrombosis).
What if I have had a cesarean section?
- Your eligibility for the Marie Stopes Medical Process may be affected by previous pregnancies and deliveries. It will depend on how many cesarean sections you have had and how recently.
What kind of pain management is available?
- One of the Marie Stopes’ staff will be talking to comfort you and relieve pain without medication during the procedure. This is called the Vocal Local method. Some of our centres also have an option called conscious sedation, which makes you sleep during the procedure.
What is conscious sedation?
- Conscious sedation is available at selected Marie Stopes centres. It is a form of anesthetic that allows you to feel sleepy and relax or fall asleep during the procedure. If you decide to opt for sedation its important to let us know when you make your booking so that we schedule you on the appropriate time and date. You will also receive a set of fasting guidelines to follow, so you know when to stop eating and drinking.
What if I think I’m still pregnant after the abortion?
- In approximately 1% of medical processes, the pregnancy may continue even after taking the medication. If you have continued symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness you should contact our Client Services centre. A positive pregnancy test 2 to 3 weeks after your process began does not indicate a continued pregnancy. This may just be caused by the pregnancy hormones still in your system. If the pregnancy is continuing after the Marie Stopes Medical Process, we will perform the Marie Stopes Surgical Procedure at our centre at no cost to you.
When can I have sex again after an abortion?
- We advise that you do not have vaginal intercourse or insert anything into your vagina for one week.
Can I fall pregnant after an abortion? How soon after?
- You can conceive again as early as one week after an abortion so, it’s important to talk to a nurse about a contraceptive method that’s right for you. We have a wide range of contraceptive and family planning methods available from which you can choose.
Do I need to come back to the centre after my process or procedure?
- If you opt for the Marie Stopes Procedure you do not need to come back to the centre unless you have a question or would like another service. If you choose the Marie Stopes Medical Process you will need to come for a follow up visit 3 weeks later. Call us on 0800 11 77 85 or make a booking for your follow-up consultation.
What if I think I’m still pregnant after the abortion?
- In around 1% of medical processes the pregnancy may continue even after taking the medication. If you have continued symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness you should contact our Client Services centre. A positive pregnancy test 2 to 3 weeks after your process began does not indicate a continued pregnancy. This may just be caused by the pregnancy hormones still in your system. If the pregnancy is continuing after the Marie Stopes Medical Process we will perform the Marie Stopes Surgical Procedure at our centre at no cost to you.
When can I travel after my abortion?
- You can travel as soon as you feel well enough to after the procedure but we do not recommend the Marie Stopes Medical Process for women who are travelling a significant distance (by air or road).
What if I started an abortion at home or from someone that doesn’t work for Marie Stopes South Africa?
- Because we do not have triage facilities if you are already in the process of an abortion we recommend you present yourself at your nearest hospital for treatment. If you have purchased “abortion pills” from someone who is not a designated provider do NOT consume the medication. Call us on 0800 11 77 85 to book a safe abortion.
Safe Abortion Guide
Avoid the consequences of using an illegal abortion provider. Find out about why you need a safe abortion provider in the downloadable guide below. Marie Stopes South Africa is the country’s largest non-profit provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services. We are dedicated to providing access to safe abortions for all women in the country.
Where can you get a safe abortion in South Africa?
Choose a safe abortion clinic and avoid life threatening consequences of backstreet abortions by unqualified individuals claiming to assist with abortions.
Safe Abortion Clinics in South Africa that offer Safe Abortion services by trained medical professionals
Marie Stopes has 17 safe abortion clinics across South Africa that offer abortion pills, safe abortion procedures and support. Find safe abortion clinics near you. To make an appointment for a safe abortion book online or call us on 0800 11 77 85.
Find your nearest Safe Abortion Clinics and make an appointment today
Registered for a Marie Stopes student discount at abortion clinics near you?
Don’t forget your student reproductive health card when you visit local Marie Stopes safe abortion clinics.
Share your safe abortion story
Don’t feel alone when considering a safe abortion. Read about other women’s experiences with abortions and share your own abortion story to empower others.
Looking for more answers to your questions on safe abortion? Read the responses to frequently asked safe abortion questions.
Abortion and contraception related articles:
We know that an unplanned pregnancy can be stressful and that abortions raise a lot of questions.
We’ve tried to answer as many of them in our Frequently Asked Questions section but if there’s something we missed give us a call on 0800 11 77 85 or ask us a question.