SocietyLaws on Womens Reproductive Rights

November 24, 2022

Laws on Women’s Reproductive Rights

You may have heard about the Roe v Wade case through news coverage and/or research. While we live in a South African society where this case has no legal bearing on our society, it definitely raises a few concerns with how women are being treated around the world and especially in a “First World” country such as that of the United States of America. During our investigation we learnt that the case of Roe v Wade had an effect on abortion rights in America back in 1973 and most recently, to our horror, in 2022.

To refresh our memories, we learnt that Jane Roe was a 22 year old women, unmarried, unemployed with 3 kids, in pursuit of suing the state to get an abortion. From the description of her circumstances it became clear as to her reasons for wanting an abortion however, by the time the Supreme Court ruled in her favour she had already given birth as well as had given up the child for adoption. Nevertheless, this landmark ruling still changed the lives of many women across the USA.

You may ask yourself, what was happening prior, leading up to this case? Why was this case happening at any rate in order for Jane Roe to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? Right, well in America, if you fell pregnant during the 50’s and 60’s your choices were little to non-existent when it came to termination and the only option that was available to you was what they called therapeutic abortion. This basically meant that you could terminate only if there risks involved where you could possibly  endanger your life. In simple and straight forward terms, for therapeutic termination to apply to you, you would quite literally need to be on your death bed for you to decide that you did not want to carry the pregnancy to full term. 

But now, let’s say you really wanted to terminate your existing pregnancy but your life was not at risk in any way and you did not meet the “criteria”…a panel of doctors allowed for a chance for you to present your case to them, with a catch attached to it. If you were “fortunate” enough to get the procedure approval, the doctors “Ts and Cs” were that your tubes would need to be tied to prevent you from ever needing the procedure ever again. So let us recap, your choices were either to carry full term and have the unwanted pregnancy or for you to never get pregnant again.

In 1973 and after a long fight, the Supreme Court ruled that abortions are legal and a constitutional right. Women were now able to terminate unwanted pregnancies during their first and second trimester although the state still had a right to prohibit you from termination in your third trimester. This was an obvious WIN to be celebrated by women and everyone who fought for this constitutional right.

Simultaneously, to the ongoing celebrations, anti-abortion activists had just started on their rampage to invalidate the new law past and have Roe vs Wade overturned. This included the sonogram law in Texas that required doctors to perform a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion, displaying the images, making the heart beat audible and providing a verbal explanation on the sonogram results to the patient in an effort to change their minds and hopefully not go through with the abortion. Many doctors were being stalked and killed, centres that provided abortions were getting bombed and it no longer became safe to have an abortion regardless of your circumstances. The violence went on until the year 1990.

Forward to our present time, post Roe vs Wade era, just +- 3 months ago that law that people celebrated, fought and risked their lives for was overturned. After being brought back to court, in a 5 – 4 vote, the conservatives of the Supreme Court erased the ruling of the Constitution to protect the right to abortion and ruled this act to be illegal.

While we know that the USA is back to square one but where are we as South Africa? While we legalised abortion back in 1996 and we have a reproductive right in our constitution but that’s where the excitement ends.

The medical procedure is legal and available however many women are not able to get them because of access and the negative stigma attached. Seeing that there are reported cases of nurses that are making it as unpleasant as possible in order to ensure that women never return to get another abortion, the process is made as painful and punitive as possible. We can argue that the amount of discouragement, shaming and side eyeing one gets can make them decide against their own decision.

Women also face unfavourable treatment from their own communities after terminating a pregnancy. The logic that comes after this is that you would not go where you feel unaccepted and unsafe. Unwanted pregnancies across most communities can completely change the course of a women’s life whether we’d like to shy away from it or not. However, it is worth mentioning that, we have come a long way when it comes to groups of people now opening themselves up to the “taboo” conversations about termination of pregnancies which has in some way normalised the legal right to do so.

In conclusion from our learnings, the issues surrounding abortion is used to highlight the importance of a woman’s ability/right to be in control of her own body and should be seen as a basic human right. Taking into account the factors that come into play apart from a pregnancy being unwanted, termination of pregnancy should, in any case, be regarded as basic health care that should be between a person and their doctor and not so much the person and their government.


C-Suite is a 100% black woman-owned bespoke boutique legal firm specializing in the areas of social media and digital marketing.


C-Suite is a 100% black woman-owned bespoke boutique law firm specializing in the areas of social media and digital marketing.


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