Abortion in South Africa: A reporting guide for journalists

Abortion has been legal in South Africa for decades. Until 1997, however, access to termination of pregnancy services was extremely limited and largely confined to white women.

More than 20 years after South Africa’s landmark 1996 Act, we know that safe abortion saves lives but we’re still not talking about safe, legal terminations, whether at the dinner table or in the tabloids.

If a friend asked you right now for help on where she could access a free, safe abortion would you know what to say?

Many of us don’t, and that’s a problem because if you’re a journalist, your story could be the only information a person hears about safe abortion all year.

But don’t worry, we got you with this new reporting guide produced by the Bhekisisa Mail & Guardian Centre for Health Journalism.


The manual is based on input from almost a dozen journalists from the country’s leading media houses across print, radio and TV. Each section was reviewed by at least one external medical expert for accuracy and the booklet was made possible by funding from the international advocacy and communications organisation Global Health Strategies.

It’s not meant to be read from cover-to-cover. Use what you need when you need it – so that may be as a go-to source to:

  • Describe when abortion is legal in South Africa, who can provide it, or how abortions actually work,
  • Explain medical terms,
  • Develop new story ideas and angles.

And download our free #SafeAbortion infographics in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Tshivenda, Afrikaans, Setswana or English here. You can check out find the latest copy of our handy reproductive health and rights expert list designed to help journalists more easily cover the topic here.

Because a woman’s Constitutional right to choose means nothing if she doesn’t know about it.

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These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

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