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HEALTH PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
9 November 2004
CHOICE ON TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY AMENDMENT BILL: ADOPTION; STERILISATION AMENDMENT BILL, AND WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL: BRIEFINGS; COMMITTEE BUDGET AND BUSINESS PLAN: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Mr L Ngculu (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill [B72D - 2003]
Sterilisation Amendment Bill [B12A - 2004]
Select Committee amendments to Sterilisation Amendment Bill
The Committee considered the proposed NCOP amendment to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Even though the ANC thought the amendment was minor, the DA and the ACDP insisted on it being debated in the National Assembly. The Committee voted and it was decided that the amendment would not be debated in the Assembly. The Bill was further adopted with the DA abstaining.
The Committee was given an introductory brief on the Sterilisation Amendment Bill. It was decided to ratify the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control at a later time while the Committee Budget and Business Plan were adopted. In conclusion, the Committee decided to schedule a briefing session on the Medicines Pricing Regulations prior to the closing of Parliament's 2004 session.
Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Bill
Clause 6(1)(d): Amendment of Section 10 of Act 92 of 1996
The NCOP had proposed after Clause 6(1) to insert "or not contemplated in section 3(3)(a)"
Mr R Coetzee (DA) and Ms C Dudley (ACDP) proposed that the amendment be debated in the National Assembly (NA). Mr Coetzee felt it wrong that the Bill had not been debated in the first place. He asked why the entire Bill could not be debated since it would to be referred to the NA in any event. It was believed to be in the public's interest to have it debated. Ms Dudley agreed that the Bill was of interest to the public and that it should be debated. She noted that public hearings on the Bill had not taken place in the provinces.
The Chair disagreed and said that public hearings on the Bill had taken place in Parliament. Mr Ngculu said that it would not be practical to debate the entire Bill again. Old issues that had been dealt with should not be regurgitated. He noted that it was possible to debate the proposed amendment however.
Mr Coetzee reacted that the DA's Whips had informed him that it was a political party's prerogative to propose that a piece of legislation be debated in the NA.
The Chair stressed that the decision to debate the amendment would be taken by the Committee as a whole and not by a single political party.
Ms Dudley responded that it had been the Committee that had not wanted to debate the Bill initially.
The Chair said that it had been a mere technicality that the Bill had not been debated in the NA. He pointed out that declarations on it had been made at the time.
Mr S Njikelana (ANC) stated that the principal Act had gone through the entire process and that only if an amendment was substantive did a need for it to be debated exist. He pointed out that the proposed amendment was only of a technical nature.
Dr I Cachalia felt that the whole issue of a debate would not have surfaced had the amendment not come before the Committee.
The Chair placed the issue of a debate before the Committee and asked Members to vote on it.
The DA and the ACDP voted in favour of a debate whereas the ANC overwhelmingly voted against. No debate would take place on the amendment.
The Committee also voted on the Bill. The Bill was voted on with an abstention from the DA. The Bill was adopted.
Sterilisation Amendment Bill
The Department provided the Committee with a short introductory briefing on the Bill. The delegation comprised of Ms L Mpuntsha, Director for Women's Health and Genetics, and Mr M Motsape from Legal Services. Mr Motsape noted that two categories of sterilisation were provided for in the principal Act. The first being where the person was 18 years of age or older and had consented thereto. The second was where the person was under the age of 18 years or the person suffered from a "severe "mental disability. The requirement was however that both the severely mentally ill person and the under 18 year old's physical health must have been under threat. In both the first and second category a doctor must have recommended the sterilisation procedure. The Bill does away with the requirement of "severe" mental disability. Mental disability in itself was regarded as good enough grounds. A further amendment was that the definition of health had been extended to include a threat to physical, mental and social well-being. In summary, the requirements for a sterilisation procedure would be the consent of the person involved or the consent of his or her caregiver or guardian where the person was mentally ill or under age. Secondly, a written opinion of a doctor recommending the procedure was also required. A panel would then decide on the merits of each case. Mr Motsape noted a case where a sterilisation procedure had been considered on a young woman who could not mentally cope with the consequences of her menstrual cycle.
Ms Dudley asked what was behind the thinking in including social well-being under the definition of health.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) said that the definition of health included "social well-being".
Ms M Manana (ANC) referred to the mentioned case and asked how sterilisation was linked to the young woman's fear of blood.
Mr Motsape said that the fear of blood aggravated the mental condition of the young woman. The sterilisation would stop the menstrual flow that in turn would alleviate the fear.
Dr A Luthuli (ANC) commented that a sterilisation would not necessarily stop the menstrual cycle.
Mr R Coetzee (DA) asked how the panel was constituted.
Mr Motsape said that the panel comprised of a psychiatrist or doctor, psychologist and nurse.
Dr Luthuli asked if a child under 18 could request a sterilisation. Mr Motsape noted that it could happen only if the person's health was in jeopardy.
The Committee agreed for the Bill to proceed to the public hearing process when Parliament reconvened in January 2005.
World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
The Committee agreed to ratify the convention the following week as Members needed to first peruse the document.
Committee Budget and Business Plan
The Chair said that he had requested R1.7 million but felt that the allocated amount would be much less. The Committee adopted the Committee Budget and Business Plan.
Mr Coetzee was concerned about the Medicines Pricing Regulations and when the Department was to brief the Committee on the progress that had been made. He felt that a briefing was urgent since the matter was currently unfolding. Dr Cachalia agreed with Mr Coetzee that the issue was of utmost importance.
The Chair noted the complexities over the issue and proposed that the Pharmacy Council and the Department be called upon to brief the Committee the following week. The Committee agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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