Research

Unwanted pregnancies in Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces, South Africa: Examining mortality data on dumped aborted fetuses and babies

Roxanne Jacobs, Nancy Hornsby, Sandra Marais

Abstract


Background. Across the world, millions of women unintentionally become pregnant and decide to terminate the pregnancy. Despite progressive abortion laws in South Africa (SA), evidence suggests that many women of all ages still resort to unsafe terminations outside legal, designated facilities. Media reports alert the public to an increase in the illegal dumping of fetuses and abandoned babies, suggesting an increase in unsafe termination practices as well as concealed births.

Objective. To examine mortality data to identify trends in the dumping of aborted fetuses and abandoned babies in SA.

Method. This study utilised data from the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System in two provinces, namely Gauteng and Mpumalanga. A total sample of mortality data was used to analyse trends associated with this phenomenon from 2009 to 2011. Descriptive, exploratory statistics were used and included the calculation of crude population incidence rates for abortions and abandoned babies as well as figures (n) and percentages (%) for each category under investigation.

Results. An increase in the rate of discovery of non-viable fetuses was noted for both provinces over the 3-year period, while there was a significant decrease in the discovery of deceased abandoned babies in Gauteng only.

Conclusion. The illegal dumping of fetuses and babies is a very real public health concern in both Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Information is insufficient for adequate surveillance, and improved data collection systems should be prioritised.


Authors' affiliations

Roxanne Jacobs, SAMRC-UNISA (South African Medical Research Council-University of South Africa) Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa

Nancy Hornsby, SAMRC-UNISA (South African Medical Research Council-University of South Africa) Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa

Sandra Marais, SAMRC-UNISA (South African Medical Research Council-University of South Africa) Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

Unwanted pregnancy; Termination of pregnancy; TOP; Mortality data; Abortion; Abandoned babies; Fetus

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(12):864-869. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.8504

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-05-30
Date published: 2014-07-21

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