Abortion - Why are there so many?

Feb 2008 by Sonja Bohnsack

Why are so many women having unplanned pregnancies in a country rife with AIDS?  Why are so many women having unplanned pregnancies at all? There have been well over half a million legal abortions in South Africa since they were legalized in 1994.  Professor Elna McIntosh, Director of DISA, a women’s wellness clinic, responds that people do not think HIV is their problem, and therefore take risks. Physiologically we want to have sex, says McIntosh; it’s like eating and sleeping. It is the same attitude with falling pregnant ‘It will never happen to me’ is what a great many people think.

The following is an excerpt of the book ‘The Human Zoo’ written by Desmond Morris; ‘From ancient times, young lovers who have known that the law may demand no less than their lives if they are caught, have never the less found themselves driven to take the risk’. So strong is the need to have sex. Coupled with the fact that many women don’t want to be on some form of contraception, mostly due to weight gain. McIntosh says women can also be lazy and don’t want to take responsibility. Therefore they continue to take risks with both possible HIV infection, as well as pregnancy, and sadly don’t think of the consequences.

Judi Merckel, a women’s rights activist, says it is a case of most South African women’s lives, especially those in the rural areas, being framed by: Poverty, Male Domination, Powerlessness, Ignorance of their own bodies and their own lives. In such cases it is vital to empower and educate these women, which in turn will make a tremendous difference to the choices they make.

Reasons why women have unwanted pregnancies:

  • No access to contraceptives/did not use contraceptives
  • Rape/ decision to have sex was not their own
  • Their partner did not want them to use contraception
  • The contraception method failed
  • They take the risk, caught up in the moment
  • Ignorance
  • Think they are too old to fall pregnant
  • Laziness or don’t want to be on some form of contraception

Reasons why women terminate their pregnancies:

  • Not able to provide for the child emotionally, socially or financially
  • Pressure by partner to terminate
  • Parental or family pressure to terminate
  • Unemployment
  • Unstable relationship
  • Interruption of educational activities
  • Partners deny responsibility for the pregnancy
  • Fear, feeling that they will not cope
  • Age – to old or to young
  • Feeling unsupported or rejected by loved ones

Perhaps education is the answer. Having said that, with the amount of AIDS awareness programs we are exposed to, is there not still the tendency, across the board, to throw caution to the wind and take the risk regardless…..?  

Sonja Bohnsack is a certified life and trauma coach. She works part time for DISA clinic (011 787 1222 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            011 787 1222      end_of_the_skype_highlighting) where she facilitates an abortion support group as well as pre and post abortion coaching/counseling. You can contact her at sonja@traumacoach.co.za. Or look at her website www.traumacoach.co.za. 

Further information:


Life line Johannesburg - 011 728 1347  (also country wide)
Family life centers – look in local directory 
Marie Stopes Johannesburg - 011 4631674  (also country wide)