“100% pain-free abortion” posters can be seen on almost every lamp post and wall in the streets of Grahamstown. A complex procedure is reduced and made to sound so simple. Those who opt to call the number do so because of desperation and the lack of knowledge to make informed decisions.
The good news is that Settlers Hospital has a Women’s Health Clinic that specializes in health related issues concerning women, particularly the termination of unwanted pregnancies, providing a much safer option to the alternative offered on street posters. The question I found myself asking is; Why is this vital information not accessible to young women in Grahamstown?
At the Women’s Health Clinic at Settlers, I was referred to Sr. Mbinda (Senior Nurse Services Manager) and then on to the CEO of the hospital and neither of them were prepared to speak, stating “We are not refusing to assist, but proper channels should be followed for risk management purposes.” The staff further went on to say that they suggest I write to the Department of Health requesting permission to conduct any further interviews or get answers concerning the services rendered at the women’s health clinic.
After failing to extract information from Settlers, I contacted a former employee (who will remain anonymous) who used to conduct the procedure here in Grahamstown. She stated that the clinic is open from 7am-4pm from Mondays to Thursdays and that both the consultation and the abortion is free. Services include counselling, the suggestion of alternative options, advice and family planning.
Medical practitioners can conduct two procedures; the one conducted in Grahamstown can be done up until 9 weeks and the second is no longer offered at Settlers Hospital but referrals are made to Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth. Settlers Hospital offer the pill that is taken at the clinic and the patient is then told to go home and expect side effects such as vomitting, diarrhoea, cramps and heavy bleeding.
The second option- includes scraping the contents of the womb without any anaesthetic provided. Confidentiality is non-negotiable and protected by law.
Sister Ferreira, the Head Nurse at the Rhodes University Health Clinic said that referrals were made from there to Dr. Bull at Gainsford and Partners on High Street to examine women who then advise them to Settlers or Port Elizabeth. The examination can be charged to your student account. A fee of R170 is charged for the sonogram and another R170 for the consultation. It appears on your student account as a general consultation or check-up, particulars are not given.
Sister Ferreira also said that it is common for young ladies to enquire about abortions and that counselling is provided at Rhodes University Counselling Centre which is situation in the Stephen Bantu Biko building.