Abortion hacks still kill in SA
Thousands of women are resorting to backstreet and other illegal abortions, driven by fear and ignorance.
According to global reproductive health group Marie Stopes International, 260000 abortions take place in South Africa every year.
Of these, the group performs 37000 and the Health Department, according to its 2012 statistics, more than 77 000.
Illegal abortions in Southern Africa are estimated at between 52% and 58% of the total.
Simon Cooke, CEO of Marie Stopes International, who visited South Africa last week, said that despite progressive abortion legislation "many women in South Africa don't even know that abortion is legal".
Of major concern, he said, was the "high number of illegal and second-trimester abortions" in South Africa.
He said unsafe abortions were performed by unqualified people who were neither competent surgeons nor proficient in infection prevention.
"They don't intend to see their clients ever again," Cooke said.
With few overheads, backstreet abortionists are able to undercut the cost of a safe, legal abortion, which, at a Marie Stopes clinic, costs between R1200 and R3400.
A recent survey by the Pew Centre, a US think-tank, discovered that 61% of South Africans regard abortion as morally unacceptable.
Marie Stopes SA director Caroline Mitchell said that in urban areas backstreet "medical abortions" often used fake drugs or quinine, usually used for malaria prevention, to induce an abortion.
In rural areas, methods were even more simplistic, involving women drinking chemicals.