Thursday December 12, 2019

Widespread Stigma in South Africa, Despite Liberal Abortion Laws

At the clinic in Rustenburg, nurse Christa Tsomele has been performing abortions for a decade, and says she is proud of her work. She says she thinks some of her colleagues are contributing to the stigma of abortion -- and worse.

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Nurse Margorie Sithole, left, explains to Martina Mabe, center, and Flora Tshabalala, right, that abortion proceedures will only be performed during the week at Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, Feb. 1, 1997. VOA

Twenty-six-year-old Precious, as she has asked us to call her to protect her identity, is 16 weeks pregnant. And so is her best friend, also by Precious’ boyfriend. That event turned her life upside down and brought her to the difficult decision to seek an abortion.

She lives in South Africa, where abortion is legal without justification and available through a nurse through 12 weeks of pregnancy, and legal up to 20 weeks, when done by a doctor and with justification.

But when she tried to get an abortion in her home city of Johannesburg, she ran into problems.

“When I went to register my name, I simply said, ‘I want to do abortion,’ and then they said, ‘No,’” she told VOA.

“And there were two nurses there, and the older one said, ‘Oh, thank God, I’m not trained for this,’ whilst the other one said, ‘no, you have to do back to your place and do it there.’ Then we had a disagreement there, as, like, I’m being against God and more stuff like that.”

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The company recently launched a campaign to try to reduce the stigma around abortion care. Pixabay

Hers is a common experience, and it’s what reproductive health advocates say drives 10,000 South African women to seek illegal, backstreet abortions every year.

The nation’s health department estimated that as many as 25 percent of maternal deaths from septic miscarriages were the result of such illegal abortions. More than half of all abortions in South Africa are unlicensed, despite the fact that half of all government hospitals offer the service for free.

Precious, who says she fears being judged by her neighbors, chose instead to travel to the dusty mining town of Rustenburg, where aid agency Doctors Without Borders has set up a free abortion clinic.

She said she was sure of her decision.

“I want this thing to be done as quickly as — because I can’t, I can’t take it anymore,” she said, her voice soft and wavering. “Because what I’m thinking is what happened. I can’t think of, like, of positive things. I think, if this thing failed, then what will I do? Should I end my life?”

‘We give women a choice’

Whitney Chinogwenya, head of marketing at South Africa’s best-known private abortion provider, Marie Stopes, says their clinics address a real need. The company recently launched a campaign to try to reduce the stigma around abortion care.

“When a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy, they’re going to terminate the pregnancy,” Chinogwenya told VOA from the organization’s office in downtown Johannesburg. “It doesn’t matter what methods they use, it doesn’t matter whether it’s legal, it’s illegal or it’s safe — they’re going to find a way to terminate the pregnancy.

“So what’s so great about South Africa and it being legal here is that there’s a safe place where you can get the procedure, where it’s not going to harm your body, where it’s not going to cause serious complications. And the most important thing is that we give women a choice.”

Another problem, she said, is that few women know that abortion is legal, and think backstreet providers — who advertise openly, but who are not licensed — are their only option.

Medical experts told VOA harrowing tales of the practices performed by such providers. Many don’t perform ultrasounds, don’t attempt to determine how far along the pregnancy is, don’t follow up after the procedure, give the wrong medication, give incorrect medical advice, or administer dangerous chemicals such as bleach and drain cleaner to desperate patients.

One particularly egregious provider, Chinogwenya told VOA, even tried to sexually assault a woman in his care.

‘Somebody has to do it’

Nurse Kgaladi Mphahlele, who heads the Doctors Without Borders project in Rustenburg, says demand for the clinic’s services is high. He estimates he performs as many as 100 first-trimester abortions each month, and says he sees women from as far away as Botswana, where abortion is illegal.

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South Africa, where abortion is legal without justification and available through a nurse through 12 weeks of pregnancy, and legal up to 20 weeks, when done by a doctor and with justification. VOA

His patients, he said, range in age from teenagers to 50-year-olds. He began his career delivering babies, but switched course, and says he’s proud of his decision.

“I look back, ‘why did I get myself into this profession?’” he said, adding that his friends and family were initially worried, but have since become supportive of his choice.

“I said, ‘I want to be a health care provider because I want to help the people.’ And then, you see a gap, and this is part of health care service, and if no one is doing it, somebody has to do it. And I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy working with people.”

At the clinic in Rustenburg, nurse Christa Tsomele has been performing abortions for a decade, and says she is proud of her work. She says she thinks some of her colleagues are contributing to the stigma of abortion — and worse.

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“If you can’t help a patient as a nurse, just refer the client to the relevant place so that the patient must get help,” she said. “Don’t just tell her, ‘no, I can’t do that, or ‘I can’t help you,’ and leave the patient stranded. That is why they end up going to the bogus [provider]. Because when you leave her stranded, now she decides to go out to the street, that is where she is going to die.”

It’s that, she says, that keeps her going, through the judgment, through the tears, through the difficult stories she hears day in and day out. Because, she says, whether people agree with her work or not, she’s saving women’s lives, and following the law. (VOA)

Next Story

Here are 4 Travel Destinations for Couples

Honeymoon destination worth considering

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Here are some travel destinations for couples seeking a romantic holiday. Pixabay

One can pick from a wide array of idyllic locales such as Greece, Switzerland, South Africa, and Italy. But how do you choose whether you want to snuggle up in front of a fire and relax to the sound of the tides on a hammock? Heres is a list of this seasons handpicked hotels for the discerning traveller. Couples seeking the ultimate romantic holiday can choose from a range of experiences and settings such as – hidden getaways, wellness retreats, culinary sojourns and adventure in the wilderness.

1. The SECLUDED RETREAT

Myconian Villa Collection, Greece

Nestled into the hillside above Elia Bay, the Mykonian ?Villa Collection is a unique luxury? resort? ?concept. ?This tranquil island escape offers impeccable service with quintessential Greek decor accented by bespoke wood-crafted furnishing and vibrant fabrics. The essence of Myconian beauty and lifestyle runs like a blue thread through a constellation of exceptionally spacious suites and rooms, while superb villas offer the discreet yet boundless opulence of a private house in Mykonos. Leaning into the mountain, the terraced villas have uninterrupted views of the Aegean Sea, culminating in a 360-degree panorama on the vast entertainment deck with its plush bar, epicurean restaurant and saltwater infinity pool.

Travellers can choose the luxurious privacy of the Lover’s Suite where special services such as in-room evening meals, couples’ massages on the scenic deck, and other such intimate indulgences can be experienced. This Cycladic Island combines a romantic ambience for newlyweds with sandy beaches, turquoise waters and a world-class nightlife scene for evenings that take guests into the morning hours.

Guests can book a longer stay for 3 nights or more, and save up to 30% on the Best Available Rates at this member hotel with the �Stay More Save More Offer’ from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This offer is valid for bookings made from now till December 31, 2019; for stays through March 31, 2020.

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A holiday in Greece provides secluded retreat to couples. Pixabay

2. The WELLNESS GETAWAY

The Capra, Switzerland

An intimate, alpine luxury spa lodge in a spectacular natural setting. The Capra is a car-free Swiss ski resort, also a favourite among winter sports connoisseurs. There is guaranteed high-quality snow, and authentic charm – combining the cosiness of a chalet with the comforts of a luxury hotel. Expansive suites in warm earthy tones have panoramic views of snow-frosted peaks, pristine valleys, and wide-open skies where guests can relax, recharge and reconnect with nature. The fire-lit lounge, well-appointed library, and deluxe spa are designed to soothe the senses. Even more indulgent is the wholesome farm-to-table cuisine offered at the hotel.

The Spa at the resort is run and managed by Peak Health. Their goal is not only to help guests to unwind, but to develop personal strategies and holistic approach to resetting health based on the latest scientific research by a team of wellness experts from around the globe. The Spa offers a fully immersive retreat programme that helps guests transform their lifestyle, it also consists of indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pools, salt-therapy rooms, saunas, fully equipped gym, yoga studio, and a varied selection of intensive treatments for the mind and body.

3. ADVENTURE ESCAPE

Gondwana Game Reserve, South Africa

Less than a four-hour drive from Cape Town International Airport, along South Africa’s scenic Garden Route, the 11,000-hectare Private Game Park offers a distinctive and luxurious safari destination with free-roaming Big 5 safari animals (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, and leopard). Gondwana Game Reserve is known for its well-appointed safari lodge accommodation, awe-inspiring views, attentive service, exquisite South African cuisine, and an array of adventure-linked activities including game drives, birdwatching, fynbos walks, mountain biking, hiking trails and more. Luxury accommodation is offered in Kwena Lodge, a modern twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. The 14 open-plan suites are nestled into the breath-taking natural surroundings with 180-degree views, skylights for star gazing, fireplaces and deep baths.

Gondwana Game Reserve is an ideal African honeymoon destination for adventure enthusiasts. It is a picture-perfect retreat where guests can create lasting memories on their romantic vacation, from immersing themselves in the spectacular scenery, enjoying private dining experiences, to the reinvigorating Africology massages at the spa and more.

Italy couples
Italy is a very romantic travel place for couples. Pixabay

4. CULINARY SOJOURNS

Il Castelfalfi, Italy

Nestled amid the sun-kissed Tuscan hills, surrounded by vineyards, centuries-old olive trees and period farmhouses, Il Castelfalfi is the perfect getaway to plan a romantic escape. Sample traditional ingredients and flavours with a cooking class at Rosso Toscano Cooking school and visit the local vineyards to discover the favourite wines. Once set in a village, the grounds now surrounding the resort are filled with charming shops and restaurants sure to transport travellers to a different era.

At the gourmet restaurant – La Rocca di Castelfalfi, top chef Michele Rinaldi reinterprets traditional cuisine for guests to savour. Located within the medieval castle brought back to life after a meticulous restoration, the restaurant is a landmark in the village, where guests enjoy the authentic taste of

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The above-listed hotels are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts – Legend Collection. Guests can book a longer stay for 3 nights or more, and save up to 30% on the Best Available Rates at this member hotel with the �Stay More Save More Offer’ from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This offer is valid for bookings made from now till December 31, 2019; for stays through March 31, 2020. (IANS)