The Medical Research Council said on Monday the health system was failing to provide women with abortion services and called for unwanted pregnancies to be recognised as a specific health risk.
South Africa's leading research council said that many women were still being denied access to termination of pregnancy services and that as a
result, they were resorting to back street abortions.
Women die or incur life-long ill health and disability, including infertility wrought by continued use of unsafe, backyard or illegal
termination of pregnancy services, the council said.
It also warned that besides the associated health risks, unwanted pregnancies could also result in neglect or abandoned children as well as in family violence.
Unwanted pregnancies must be recognised as a specific health risk for women and their families, the council said.
The MRC's Prof Jack Moodley recently found that hostile moral attitudes of health workers were one of the main factors preventing women from gaining access to legal abortions.
Moodley, in a recent study, also cited the ignorance of women with respect to the law as one of the factors preventing them from legally terminating their pregnancies.
Moodley called for women to be educated about their right to legal recourse when access or information about legal abortions was denied.
He also said that health professionals should likewise be educated about the limitation of their rights when it came to providing information and access to abortion services.
(Source: SAPA, 30 September 2002