Picture: iSTOCK
Picture: iSTOCK

Parliament’s health portfolio committee has rejected African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Cherylln Dudley’s private member’s bill on abortion, saying her proposals would make it harder for women to safely end unwanted pregnancies.

It said her proposed amendments to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act were prohibitively expensive and that there was no evidence they would enhance the provision of care.

"The committee believes that the bill is not desirable at this stage. The committee is also of the opinion that greater education and awareness campaigns, as well as prevention programmes, are needed to ensure women are equipped with the necessary information to make informed decisions concerning their reproductive health and rights," it said in its report on the bill.

Dudley’s bill was tabled in Parliament in December. It proposes showing women ultrasound images of their foetuses before all abortions, mandatory counseling before and after abortions, and introduces a requirement that for abortions between 13 and 20 weeks a social worker and a doctor must agree the pregnancy would significantly affect the socio-economic circumstances of the women.

Earlier this month, the Health Department urged MPs to reject the bill, saying the conditions it attached to obtaining abortions were at odds with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on abortion. It said the bill would make it harder for women to obtain abortions at hospitals and clinics, and compel more women to seek dangerous, back-street abortions.

Dudley said she accepted the committee’s decision, but would request that the motion of desirability be debated in the national assembly. "Being able to openly discuss these painful issues helps all South Africans feel they are part of nation building and not marginalised or ignored."