South Africa: Social Development Co-Hosts Abortion and Reproductive Justice Conference, 8-12 Jul

press release

The Department of Social Development in partnership with the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction Research Programme, Rhodes University, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition and the International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion will co-host an international conference titled Abortion and Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution III, scheduled to take place from 8-12 July 2018 in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.

The upcoming conference builds on the two previous similar conferences that were held in Canada in August 2014 and in Northern Ireland in July 2016. The conference comes at an opportune moment as issues relating to abortion and reproductive justice have once more come to the fore in the global development agenda.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa protects the right of persons to make decisions concerning reproduction and to security in and control over their bodies. In 1997, Parliament enacted the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (Act No. 92 of 1996), which places an obligation on Government to provide reproductive health services to all, including safe conditions under which the right of choice can be exercised without fear or harm.

Twenty one years after the passing of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act was enacted, serious challenges still persist regarding its implementation. In a 2017 report, Amnesty International found that less than 7% of the country's 3,880 public health facilities perform termination of pregnancy. This number is far less than the 505 medical facilities designated by the Department of Health to perform terminations of pregnancy across South Africa. Despite the fact that abortion is legal in South Africa, it is estimated that between 52 and 58% of the estimated 260 000 abortions that take place in South Africa every year are illegal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates that investments in sexual and reproductive health are critical for saving lives and reducing ill-health among women and their children. It is estimated that that each year more than 25 million women and girls have unsafe abortions across the globe.

The conference therefore provides an opportunity to discuss public health policies and practice models relating to abortion and reproductive justice in both developed and developing countries, as well as strengthen national, regional and global advocacy initiatives particularly in the context of Agenda 2030.

The South African government has consistently promoted a broadly inclusive understanding of sexual and reproductive health and rights as a basic requirement for the achievement of the objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICDP) Programme of Action, the empowerment of women, and the achievement of gender equity and equality.

The South African Government's position on abortion and reproductive justice is predicated on the understanding that the decision to have children is fundamental to women's physical, psychological and social health and that universal access to reproductive health care services includes family planning and contraception, termination of pregnancy, as well as sexuality education and counselling programmes and services.

The conference also builds on the ongoing work under the leadership of the Inter-Ministerial Committee established by Cabinet to oversee implementation of the Population Policy, the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Framework Strategy as well as the coordination of the United Nations Population Fund Country Support Programme. In 2015, Cabinet approved the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Framework Strategy (2014-2019). The strategy resonates with the vision of the Population Policy of South Africa (1998) and seeks to pave the way for addressing challenges relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people.

Issued by: Department of Social Development

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