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20 August 2004

Press Release

The South African Nursing Council Response to the Amendment of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996

The South African Nursing Council in response to the outcry regarding the impact the amendment to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 will have on the profession of nursing releases the following statement.

The replacement of the term “registered midwife” with the term “registered nurse” does not substantially change the situation with regard to the number of nurses that may or may not perform abortions.

The majority of the nurses on the South African Nursing Council register are registered as both general nurse and midwife i.e. 82 213 out of a total of 96 715 registered nurses.

The amendment to the Act effectively allows an additional 14 288 registered nurses who are not midwives out of a total number of 96 715 registered nurses on the South African Nursing Council register to carry out a termination of pregnancy.

A person who is registered as a midwife only is a person who has met the requirements to be registered as a midwife only and is not registered as nurse. There are currently no training institutions in South Africa that are training persons as midwives only.  The South African Nursing Council register had only 802 registered midwives in 2003 as compared to 1900 in 1997. The amendment to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 will therefore preclude these 802 registered midwives from carrying out a termination of pregnancy. 

The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 clearly states that only a person “who has undergone prescribed training in terms of this Act;” may perform a termination of pregnancy. In this regard only registered nurses who have completed the necessary training to carry out a termination of pregnancy may perform such a termination and may only terminate pregnancies of up to and including 12 weeks of gestation. The amendment to the Act does not change these conditions under which a registered nurse may carry out a termination. 

Neither the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 nor the Nursing Act, 1978 and the South African Nursing Council compels a nurse to conduct a termination of pregnancy. The intention of the Act is to provide a choice for women regarding the termination of a pregnancy and to enable a medical practitioner and a registered nurse to carry out such a termination.

A Registered Nurse has a choice to undergo the prescribed training and furthermore he/she also has a choice regarding whether to work in a facility that is approved to carry out a termination of pregnancy. 

(Signed)
Hasina Subedar
Registrar
South African Nursing Council

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