Back to Africa Check

Up to 58% of ‘260,000 abortions’ every year in SA illegal? No data supports this

This article is more than 5 years old

South Africa hosted 285 delegates from 26 countries at a conference on reproductive health in July 2018.

In a press release before the gathering, the department of social development said “it is estimated that between 52 and 58% of the estimated 260,000 abortions that take place in South Africa every year are illegal”.

A spokesman for the department, Nomfundo Lentsoane, directed Africa Check to, a website that collates news about South Africa. But the only article we could find mentioning the statistic was a version of the department’s own media release. These figures were also repeated by national media.

Lentsoane added that they “gather information from government institutions”. (Note: We have asked her to clarify.)

Just over 100,000 abortions recorded

Earlier in 2018, we found a claim that 200,000 abortions take place every year in South Africa to be unproven. The national department of health recorded 105,358 abortions in designated health facilities in the 2016/17 financial year, the most recent figures available.

The data would include private providers as they are required to regularly report abortion statistics.

But experts told us there was no independent data on “illegal” terminations - those that take place in undesignated facilities.

In her 2016 paper shared with Africa Check, University of Cape Town researcher Rebecca Hodes said that while the signs are that the rate of these is high, there is “a dearth of statistics on illegal abortion in South Africa”.

Hodes, the director of the Aids and society research unit at the university, said this is due to low reporting and difficulties in capturing the symptoms of such terminations. - Lee Mwiti (11/07/2018)


Further reading:


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.