Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill [B34-2017]: Bill rejected

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09 May 2018
Chairperson: Ms M Dunjwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill, tabled by Ms C Dudley (ACDP) as a Private Member’s Bill, was considered and rejected by the Committee. The Committee was unanimous in the view that the Bill was fatally flawed, not practical and would place huge financial burden on the Department of Health, which was already under-staffed and faced financial challenges – if the Bill was not implementable, there was no value in passing the legislation.

Members also had constitutional reservations regarding the Bill –restrictions on reproductive rights could not be supported.

Ms Dudley thanked the Committee for considering the Bill and the accepted the decision of the Committee that the Bill be deemed undesirable.

Meeting report

The Chairperson, after noting apologies from Mr Shaik Emam (NFP) and Ms C Ndaba (ANC), confirmed the purpose of the meeting was to decide on the adoption of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill. The sponsor of the Bill, Ms C Dudley (ACDP) was in attendance.

Motion of Desirability on the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill [B34-2017]

The Chairperson asked if Members required more time to go through the report.

Mr A Mahlalela (ANC) responded that no more time was needed to go because it was emailed to Members last night.

Ms P Kopane (DA) spoke to the proposed Bill being fatally flawed. It is not practical and implementation would place a financial burden on the Department of Health (DoH), especially considering challenges the Department currently faced. The DoH does not have the staff and equipment necessitated to implement the Bill. It is clear from the report, presented by the DOH, on 2 May 2018, that it would be too costly.16 000 additional professional staff and training of almost 12 000 existing staff will be required to implement the Bill. In the requirement, R47 billion is needed over a period of five years - an average of R9.2 billion annually and a R4.3 billion investment on equipment alone over five years. Looking at current programmes of the DoH, it is clear R9.2 billion is too much. The country has a big problem with tuberculosis and the budget for it is only about R21 million. Implementation of the Bill would result in about a 20 percent increase in total expenditure of the Department. If the Bill is not implementable there is then no value in it being passed as legislation.

From a constitutional perspective, the proposed Bill places an unnecessary heavy burden on those who wish to terminate pregnancy. Read with the Bill of Rights, it does not allow freedom of choice. The preamble of the principal Bill recognises the decision to have children is fundamental to a woman’s psychological, physical and social health. Based on the constitutional right to freedom of choice and constitutionality of the proposed amendments, the DA cannot support the Amendment Bill. It would promote elicited illegal, back- street terminations because of the insisted mandatory counselling. The Bill should not be persuaded as legislation.

Mr A Mahlalela concurred with the views expressed by Ms Kopane on desirability of the Bill taking into consideration financial implications, costs involved and affordability - it would not be viable. Reproductive health is a right and any measure that restricted the right could not be supported. Proposed amendments would not resolve the purpose of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act instead, it would reverse all achievements made since passing this legislation. He agreed the Bill is not desirable and should not be allowed to be persuaded as legislation. He thanked Ms Dudley for the initiative taken but was of the view the Bill would not assist its intended purpose.

Dr S Tembekwayo (EFF) expressed the same views as previous Members – the EFF supported that the Bill cannot be adopted.

Ms Dudley indicated that she had no comments to contribute to discussion on adoption of the Bill but would like to make a comment after the decision was made.

The Chairperson confirmed the uncontested agreement by the Committee that the Bill is not desirable

Dr Tembekwayo moved for adoption of the Committee Report that the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill [B34-2017] was not desirable.

Dr P Maesela (ANC) seconded the motion.

The Chairperson confirmed that the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill was rejected.

Ms C Dudley thanked the Committee, on behalf of the ACDP, for considering the Bill concerning a difficult and unpleasant topic. She especially thanked those Members who felt they would have liked the Committee to apply their minds further with a view to addressing what could feasibly have been addressed such as terminating viable babies in the third trimester simply because there is a risk of injury. The decision of the Committee was accepted recognising that at this stage the Bill was not desirable. As it is a subject of great public interest and precedent set, in this regard, she requested that the Committee Report on the motion of desirability be debated in the House. Being able to openly discuss these painful issues helps all South Africans feel they are part of nation-building and not marginalised or ignored.   

The Chairperson was of the understanding that the normal process of Parliament will follow. She thanked Ms Dudley for raising such a difficult and sensitive issue and allowing Members to reflect on some of the matters raised. As previously mentioned, people have different experiences and responded based not only on reading the proposed Bill and Committee Report but also from the perspective of being in that situation at that particular time. There is nothing wrong in having different views.

Adoption of Committee Minutes

Committee Minutes dated 1 November 2017, 8 November 2017, 22 November 2017, 21 February 2018, 7 March 2018, 20 March 2018, 27 March 2018 and 18 April 2018 were adopted without amendment.

Committee Minutes dated 28 February 2018 were adopted on condition corrections and amendments were made.

Committee Minutes dated 17 and 19 April 2018 were set aside for reworking and were not adopted.

The Chairperson proposed that going forward minutes must be adopted in every meeting to avoid forgetting. If documents were requested in a meeting and Members are not satisfied with the comments provided in the report, they must indicate that and not bring it up only much later.

The Chairperson confirmed the Budget Vote of the Department of Health on 15 May 2018 at 16h00. Parliament’s Legal Services will have the report on the National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill ready in the week of 24 May 2018 and will come and make a presentation to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

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