Backstreet abortion clinics in Braamfontein are used by women because of their 24-hour convenience and lax regulations. Booking a backstreet abortion takes less than five minutes over the phone.

Braamfontein street poles are wrapped with adverts like “Quick and Same day Abortion 100% Guaranteed”. One such advert is by “Dr Williams” who offers  “Safe and pain free” abortions and “free body cleaning and blood detoxification”.

Vuvuzela called “Dr Williams” posing as a young female who was 14 weeks pregnant and wanted an abortion. He said, “Sure, you can come have the abortion, it’s fine even after three months because it’s not a baby yet. You will come here, and I will give you the pills and then you can go home. After three hours the pregnancy will come out in form of a miscarriage. Just meet me at 5pm at Noord taxi rank.”

When asked if there would be pain, he said “No, it will be like period pains”. All of this would cost R500.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act 1996 stipulates that all women in South Africa can choose to terminate a pregnancy within the first 12 weeks and thereafter only under special circumstances upon a medical practitioner’s recommendation.

Tshepo Kgapane, 2nd year BCom law, said: “Guys encourage girls they impregnate to do backstreet abortions because it’s cheap and no paper trail is left, unlike when you use medical aid. It is more confidential and stays between you and the person giving you the illegal abortion.

“But, it’s an unsafe option because who regulates these people? Who makes sure they are using the proper medical tools?”

“I know of two girls who have had illegal abortions and one of them was at university and opted for that option because she had a bursary and was scared to lose it. She was later admitted to hospital because of complications. That’s how we came to find out she had a backstreet abortion,” Kgapane said.

Ipas South Africa is a global organisation that works with youth and community-based organisations to increase knowledge and awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights.

Karen Trueman, the SA manager, said: “Often young women don’t know about the free services they can access at public sector clinics. Sometimes they wait too long to confirm that they are pregnant, ending with them presenting at legitimate public sector clinics beyond 12 weeks. This means they have to be referred to a facility that has a doctor who is prepared to provide second trimester services – sadly these are few and far between. Chris Hani Bara has 4 beds allocated to second trimester services. The lamppost adverts are designed to attract these desperate women.”