Abortion law passed again

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

ANC lawmakers pushed through the controversial abortion law in parliament yesterday in the face of heated criticism from opposition parties.

The law had been referred back to parliament by the Constitutional Court because it ruled there had not been enough consultation.

Yesterday, ANC health committee chairman James Ngculu said widespread consultation had taken place and the law was now being passed with minor changes that included improvements at health facilities.

But there was heated debate in parliament yesterday, with opposition party MPs repeating their original objections to the law, which was passed in 1996.

Ngculu lashed out at the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the DA for raising objections. He said it would save the lives of women from the dangers of backstreet abortions and allow them the choice over their bodies.

He said it was "disingenuous" to claim that the law did not allow for mandatory counselling. Counselling was contained in the law, but was not mandatory because this again allowed women choice.

He also slammed criticism that the law did not allow doctors and midwives to refuse to take part in the procedure because of their consciences. He said medical professionals had a choice whether to make medicine their career.

The ACDP's Cheryllyn Dudley said the law was like "having the blood of innocent babies on your hands". She also called for compulsory counselling because this would prevent the government from being sued for problems arising from abortion.

Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus said it did not make sense that an 18-year-old woman was not allowed to buy liquor, but the law allowed 12-year-old girls to have abortions without the permission of their parents.

A total of 266 MPs voted for the law, with 52 against and 12 abstentions.

It was supposed to have been passed last year, but there were not enough MPs present to form a quorum.