• Bonnie Venter

Top 10 Reproductive Health Law Facts

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

February month traditionally marks the month of love. Every year, as soon as the Christmas decorations are removed we are bombarded by hearts in every shape and form, tempting chocolates (even though only a few days ago we made resolutions to eat healthier) and constant reminders to get your favourite human a token of appreciation. Due to all of this, you might have missed out on the fact that February is also Reproductive Health Awareness month. Reproductive health plays a vital part in the health system and affects everyone. Apart from being aware of the health aspects of reproduction, it is also important for all men and women to be informed about their rights and have access to adequate, affordable and acceptable reproductive health services.

This month, the Patient Project has some exciting reproductive health law features, lined up for you! I'll be kicking off with the spotlight on Pregnancy Awareness week from 11-15 February and later in the month move on to contraception and termination of pregnancy discussions. But, first I'd like to share with you, top 10 facts of reproductive health laws you might not have been aware of.

Your reproductive health is protected by the Constitution of the RSA, 1996 in a number of sections, such as right to equality, dignity and access to health care services. But, most importantly, section 12 provides everyone with the right to make decisions concerning reproduction. This right can loosely be translated to 'my body, my choices'.

Sexual reproductive rights allows a person to decide if, when and how often he/she wants to reproduce. You are also provided with the necessary legal support if you choose not to reproduce.

Egg and sperm donors may receive a reasonable compensation for their donations. The main reason for the donation must still be due to altruistic reasons - unfortunately, you won't be expanding your shoe or gaming collection by donating your gametes.

Only 6 live births may be reached by using the gametes (eggs or sperm) of a specific donor. (Note: this might change soon).

A couple is considered to be infertile if they have not conceived a baby after 12 months of trying, or six months if the woman is older than 35.

Infertile couples may make use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) to help them to realise their desires to have children. ART includes treatments like IVF, embryo transfer, using donated gametes, surrogacy and other techniques.

When using a surrogate, the ovum may be derived from the surrogate (gestational mother), the commissioning mother or a donor. (If this grabbed your attention, check back in with The Patient Project in March to find out about the legal elements of surrogacy.)

There is no age limit when requesting a termination of pregnancy. Any female of any age may request an abortion between week 1 – 12 of her pregnancy. More about this later this month.

Anyone above the age of 18 may request to be sterilised. Interestingly, in the past, a husband had to provide permission for his wife to be sterilised.

Anyone above the age of 12 may request condoms or birth control pills.

Since there is so much to know about reproductive health rights, The Patient Project will write a special feature each month focused on the following topics:

February: Termination of Pregnancy (read more here)
March: Surrogacy
April: Mitochondrial Transfer (Three-Parent Babies)
May: Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
June: Human Genome Editing
July: Donating Your Gametes
August: Pregnant Women and Clinical Trials
September: Sterilisation
October: Posthumous Reproduction
November: Reproduction and HIV

Reproductive health rights, apart from organ donation laws, is a part of medical law which I am immensely passionate about. With revolutionary developments concerning Artificial Reproduction Technologies, reproductive law has developed from mainly focusing on contraceptives and preventing pregnancies to being filled with endless controversial ethical debates. New questions pop up regularly like:

Should a singleton be allowed to use a surrogate?

Should a couple be allowed to donate their unused embryos in storage to another couple?

Are labour laws providing enough protection for women undergoing IVF?

Join me, as I continue to dig deeper into this field in the weeks to come. Spoiler Alert: A few remarkable guest writers will be joining me to provide the Patient Project readers with as much information as possible on these contemporary issues.

Are there any other reproductive health law facts you would like to know more about? The Patient Project would like to know! Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on our social media pages:




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The Patient Project is made available for educational purposes only. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a practicing legal professional. The information presented may not necessarily reflect the most current legal developments or judgments. The website materials may be changed, improved, or updated without notice. The author is not responsible for any errors or omissions. All views expressed on the website are the author’s own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which the author has been, am now or will be affiliated with in the future.

© 2023 Bonnie Venter

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