Fem is a new service that assists South Africans with legal and safe abortions. The service was created by the organisation, safe2choose, and launched on 24 February 2017. The project is currently in its pilot phase and being used only in Gauteng. Safe2choose is a social enterprise that offers counselling and information on safe abortions.
In a media statement, Fem’s Associate Programme Officer, Phephisile Mathizerd, said that 21.6 million unsafe abortions occur globally, with 18.5 million of those unsafe abortions occuring in developing countries like South Africa. Mathizerd said, “Unsafe abortions have a massive impact on young women – the members of local society most impacted by poverty and unemployment. Young women have huge potential when it comes to contributing positively to national development. It’s imperative that we find a way to make the vision of the constitution real, and that we evolve into a society where all citizens have comprehensive access to sexual health services and information.” Mathizerd added, “Women who determine their pregnancy status within the first 12 weeks have many options, but the longer they wait to test, the fewer choices there are. Therefore, Fem by safe2choose places a strong emphasis on the speedy and efficient delivery of vital information.”
Users of the Fem service can SMS the word “FEM” to 30816. They will then have to answer specific questions. After the questions have been completed, the user will receive an SMS referring them to a health facility that provides safe and legal abortions. Users will have to give permission to the system to allow it to use their geographical location. The system then uses the user’s geographical location to provide them with the nearest facility that provides abortions. Users who are unable or unwilling to provide geographical consent will be allowed to manually search for a suitable facility and receive a referral. These facilities have to meet important qualification criteria and quality standards. The facilities are also verified by safe2choose.
Mathizerd concluded, “We’re hoping this initiative closes the gap by providing vital information to South Africans most in need. The message is simple: if you need assistance or access to information, you just have to send an SMS.”