Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the Right to Reproduce Under South African Law




Noncoital reproduction, right to reproduce, right to make decisions regarding reproduction, right to privacy, assisted reproductive technologies, mitochondrial donation, embryo donation, posthumous reproduction


Reproductive rights in South Africa have traditionally focused on the rights of individuals to avoid reproduction. However, with an increase in the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), there has been a shift in the focus on reproductive rights from the rights of individuals to avoid reproduction to the rights of individuals to reproduce noncoitally.

With the emergence of new technologies, reproduction by noncoital means and the right to engage in these new technologies is becoming more prevalent. This raises two questions. The first question is whether such a right exists. The recent Constitutional Court decision in AB v Minister of Social Development 2017 3 BCLR 267 (CC) suggests that it does, but only if the person claiming this right is physically involved in the reproductive process. Ostensibly this excludes those who cannot contribute to the reproduction of a child.

The second question raised pertains to the impact of this right on specific forms of ART, namely mitochondrial transfer, posthumous reproduction and embryo donation. While the first two forms of ART would meet the criteria set down in AB, embryo donation would not. Individuals denied access to embryo donation could thus not rely on either the right to reproductive autonomy or the right to privacy to aid them. Fortunately the existing legal framework provides some assistance to these individuals, although sadly the same legislative framework does not support the use of mitochondrial transfer and posthumous reproduction. In this respect there is incongruence between rights and legislation, which has only been exacerbated by the recent Constitutional Court decision. What is thus needed is clarity on the meaning of certain rights in respect of certain forms of ART as well as legislative reform to reflect the clarified position.


Google_Scholar_64.png  ScienceOpen_Log038.png


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Carmel van Niekerk, University of the Western Cape


Department of Private Law




Al-Nuaim and Jenkins 2007 SAJOG

Al-Nuaim L and Jenkins J "A Brief Historical Overview of Assisted Reproduction" 2007 SAJOG 38-41

Asch and Marmor "Assisted Reproduction"

Asch A and Marmor R "Assisted Reproduction" in Crowley M (ed) From Birth to Death and Bench to Clinic: The Hastings Centre Bioethics Briefing Book for Journalists, Policymakers, and Campaigns (The Hastings Centre New York 2008) 5-9

Bell 2006 AJETS

Bell K "An Overview of Assisted Reproduction in Australia and Directions for Social Research" 2006 AJETS 15-27

Bernabeu 2007 BIOforum Europe

Bernabeu R "Development of Assisted Reproduction: Past, Present and Future of Technologies" 2007 BIOforum Europe 2-3

Blank 1997 Politics and the Life Sciences

Blank RH "Assisted Reproduction and Reproductive Rights: The Case of In Vitro Fertilization" 1997 Politics and the Life Sciences 279-288

Birenbaum 1996 SAJHR

Birenbaum J "Contextualising Choice: Abortion, Equality and the Right to Make Decisions" 1996 SAJHR 485-503

Bredenoord, Pennings and De Wert 2008 Human Reproduction Update

Bredenoord AL, Pennings G and De Wert G "Ooplasmic and Nuclear Transfer to Prevent Mitochondrial DNA Disorders: Conceptual and Normative Issues" 2008 Human Reproduction Update 669-678

Cohen and Sayeed 2011 J Law Med Ethics

Cohen IG and Sayeed S "Fetal Pain, Abortion, Viability and the Constitution" 2011 J Law Med Ethics 235-242

Currie and De Waal Bill of Rights Handbook

Currie I and De Waal J The Bill of Rights Handbook 6th ed (Juta Cape Town 2013)

Davis Mattar 2008 SUR - International Journal on Human Rights

Davis Mattar L "Legal Recognition of Sexual Rights – A Comparative Analysis with Reproductive Rights" 2008 SUR - International Journal on Human Rights 61-83

Dimond 2015 British Medical Bulletin

Dimond R "Social and Ethical Issues in Mitochondrial Donation" 2015 British Medical Bulletin 173-182

Fasouliotis and Schenker 1999 Human Reproduction Update

Fasouliotis SJ and Schenker JG "Social Aspects in Assisted Reproduction" 1999 Human Reproduction Update 26-39

Freedman and Isaacs 1993 Studies in Family Planning

Freedman LP and Isaacs SL "Human Rights and Reproductive Choice" 1993 Studies in Family Planning 18-30

Grossman et al 2011 BMC Health Services Research

Grossman D et al "Surgical and Medical Second Trimester Abortion in South Africa: A Cross Sectional Study" 2011 BMC Health Services Research 224-232

Guttmacher et al 1998 Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health

Guttmacher S et al "Special Report: Abortion Reform in South Africa: A Case Study of the 1996 Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act" 1998 Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health 191-194

Kharb 2006 IJLHE

Kharb D "Assisted Reproductive Techniques Ethical and Legal Concerns" 2006 IJLHE 1-5

Kindregan and McBrien 2005 Fam L Q

Kindregan CP, Jr and McBrien M "Posthumous Reproduction" 2005 Fam L Q 579-595

Kindregan and McBrien Assisted Reproductive Technology

Kindregan CP, Jr and McBrien M Assisted Reproductive Technology: A Lawyer's Guide to Emerging Law and Science 2nd ed (American Bar Association Chicago 2011)

Kruger and Botha Clinical Gynaecology

Kruger TF and Botha MH Clinical Gynaecology 4th ed (Juta Claremont 2011)

Loubser and Midgley Law of Delict

Loubser M and Midgley R (eds) The Law of Delict in South Africa 2nd ed (Oxford University Press Cape Town 2012)

Mascarenhas et al 2012 PLOS Medicine

Mascarenhas MN et al "National, Regional and Global Trends in Infertility Prevalence Since 1990: A Systematic Analysis of 277 Health Surveys" 2012 9(12) PLOS Medicine 1-12

Meyerson 1999 SALJ

Meyerson D "Abortion: The Constitutional Issues" 1999 15 SALJ 50-59

Ngwena 2004 J Law Med Ethics

Ngwena C "An Appraisal of Abortion Laws in Southern Africa from a Reproductive Health Rights Perspective" 2004 J Law Med Ethics 708-717

Olaniyan Corruption and Human Rights Law

Olaniyan K Corruption and Human Rights Law in Africa (Hart Oxford 2014)

Orr and Siegler 2002 J Med Ethics

Orr RD and Siegler M "Is Posthumous Semen Retrieval Ethically Permissible?" 2002 J Med Ethics 299-303

O'Sullivan "Reproductive Rights"

O'Sullivan M "Reproductive Rights" in Woolman S et al (eds) Constitutional Law of South Africa (Juta Cape Town Revised Service 3 2011) 37-1 - 37-28

Packer Right to Reproductive Choice

Packer CAA The Right to Reproductive Choice: A Study in International Law (Institute for Human Rights, Åbo Akademi University Turku 1996)

Peart 2015 VUWLR

Peart N "Life Beyond Death: Regulating Posthumous Reproduction in New Zealand" 2015 VUWLR 725-754

Pickles 2012 PELJ

Pickles C "Termination-of-Pregnancy Rights and Foetal Interests in Continued Existence in South Africa: The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 92 of 1996" 2012 15(5) PELJ 403-434

Rebouche 2011 Ala L Rev

Rebouche R "The Limits of Reproductive Rights in Improving Women's Health" 2011 Ala L Rev 1-42

Robertson 1995 Fertility and Sterility

Robertson JA "Ethical and Legal Issues in Human Embryo Donation" 1995 Fertility and Sterility 885-894

Robey Posthumous Semen Retrieval and Reproduction

Robey C Posthumous Semen Retrieval and Reproduction: An Ethical, Legal, and Religious Analysis (MA-thesis Wake Forest University 2015)

Sarkin-Hughes 1993 THRHR

Sarkin-Hughes J "A Perspective on Abortion Legislation in South Africa's Bill of Rights Era" 1993 THRHR 83-94

Shalev 2000 Health and Human Rights

Shalev C "Rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health: The ICPD and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women" 2000 Health and Human Rights 38-66

Soini et al 2006 Eur J Hum Genet

Soini S et al "The Interface between Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Genetics: Technical, Social, Ethical and Legal Issues" 2006 Eur J Hum Genet 588-645

Van der Bank 2012 EJBSS

Van der Bank CM "The Right to Privacy – South African and Comparative Perspectives" 2012 EJBSS 77-86

Van Niekerk 2015 PELJ

Van Niekerk C "Section 294 of the Children's Act: Do Roots Really Matter?" 2015 18(2) PELJ 398-428

Van Oosten 1999 SALJ

Van Oosten F "The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act: Some Comments" 1999 SALJ 60-76

Case law


Re Edwards 2011 NSWSC 478, 2011 81 NSWLR 198

European Court of Human Rights

Costa and Pavan v Italy Application No 54270/10 of 28 August 2012

Dickson v the United Kingdom Application No 44362/04 of 4 December 2007

Evans v the United Kingdom Application No 6339/05 of 10 April 2007

Knecht v Romania Application No 10048/10 of 2 October 2012

Nedescu v Romania Application No 70035/10 of 6 November 2012

Parrillo v Italy Application No 46470/11 of 27 August 2015

SH v Austria Application No 57813/00 of 3 November 2011

South Africa

AB v Minister of Social Development 2016 2 SA 27 (GP)

AB v Minister of Social Development 2017 3 BCLR 267 (CC)

Barnard v Santam Bpk 1999 1 SA 202 (SCA)

Bernstein v Bester 1996 2 SA 751 (CC)

Christian Lawyers Association of SA v Minister of Health 1998 4 SA 1113 (T)

Christian Lawyers Association v Minister of Health 2005 1 SA 509 (T)

Clinton-Parker v Administrator, Transvaal; Dawkins v Administrator, Transvaal 1996 2 SA 37 (W)

Majiet v Santam Ltd 1997 4 All SA 555 (C)

Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie 2006 1 SA 524 (CC)

NM v Smith 2007 5 SA 250 (CC)

Road Accident Fund v Sauls 2002 2 SA 55 (SCA)

United Kingdom

L v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2008 EWHC 2149 (Fam)

R v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, ex p Blood 1996 3 WLR 1176 (QB)

R (on the Application of M) v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2015 EWHC 1706 (Admin)


South Africa

Abortion and Sterilisation Act 2 of 1975

Children's Act 38 of 2005

Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act 92 of 1996

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

National Health Act 61 of 2003

Sterilisation Act 44 of 1998

International instruments

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1981)

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Government publications

GN 1165 in GG 40312 of 30 September 2016

Internet sources

ASRM 2015


American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2015 Assisted Reproductive Technology: A Guide for Patients ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/ART.pdf 1-32 accessed 30 January 2017

Anon 1998

Anonymous 1998 An Application to the Pretoria Supreme Court, to Declare the Freedom of Choice to Terminate Pregnancy Law Unconstitutional, Fails

n2PzNLG.dpuf accessed 31 March 2016

Anon 2004

Anonymous 2004 Teens Given Right to Abortion accessed 14 May 2016

Anon 2006

Anonymous 2006 Abortion Act Declared Invalid accessed 14 May 2016

Anon 2008

Anonymous 2008 Parliament Relaxes Abortion Law accessed 14 May 2016

Centre for Reproductive Rights 1998 http://www.reproductiverights. org/sites/default/files/documents/SRSouthAfrica98en.pdf

Centre for Reproductive Rights 1998 Women's Reproductive Rights in South Africa: A Shadow Report sites/default/files/documents/SRSouthAfrica98en.pdf accessed 14 June 2016

Collins Dictionary date unknown http://www.collinsdictionary. com/dictionary/english/noncoital

Collins Dictionary date unknown Noncoital http://www.collinsdictionary. com/dictionary/english/noncoital accessed 31 May 2016 date unknown

asexual-reproduction date unknown Asexual Reproduction accessed 31 May 2016

ECtHR 2015


European Court of Human Rights 2015 Factsheet – Reproductive Rights accessed 8 June 2016

Gallagher 2015

Gallagher J 2015 UK Approves Three-person Babies accessed 27 February 2015

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2012

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2012 Human Embryo Research accessed 29 March 2016

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2014 _briefing_note_-_final.pdf

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority 2014 Mitochondrial Donation: An Introductory Briefing Note accessed 16 June 2016

Illumina 2014

documents/ clinical/karyomapping-clinicians.pdf

Illumina 2014 Karyomapping: A Rapid PDG Solution for Single Gene Disorders

documents/clinical/ karyomapping-clinicians.pdf accessed 1 April 2015

Kelland and Maclellan 2015

Kelland K and Maclellan K 2015 Britain Votes to Allow World's First "Three-parent" IVF Babies accessed 27 February 2015

Krans 2015

Krans B 2015 Women Freezing Eggs So They Can Work Now and Have Kids Later accessed 2 June 2016

Merriam-Webster date unknown dictionary/asexual

Merriam-Webster date unknown Asexual accessed 31 May 2016

Mussen 2015

Mussen D 2015 Hope for Dead Teen's Sperm accessed 30 March 2015

Parry 2015

Parry L 2015 Number of Women Freezing Their Eggs Soars By 400% in One Year as Careers are Prioritised Over Motherhood accessed 2 June 2016

Rettner 2013

Rettner R 2013 Made-to-Order Embryos Create New Legal Issues accessed 24 March 2017

Rushton 2014 freezing-their-eggs-as-part-of-a-career-strategy.html

Rushton K 2014 Women are Freezing Their Eggs as Part of a Career Strategy accessed 2 June 2016

Sidley 1998

Sidley P 1998 South Africa's Liberal Abortion Laws Challenged accessed 31

March 2016

Snow and Knopff 2012


Snow D and Knopff R 2012 Assisted Reproduction Policy in Federal States: What Canada Should Learn from Australia accessed 25 April 2017

UN 2014 Handbook.pdf

United Nations 2014 Reproductive Rights are Human Rights: A Handbook for National Human Rights Institutions Documents/Publications/NHRIHandbook.pdf accessed 3 February 2016

UN Population Fund 2014

United Nations Population Fund 2014 Programme of Action accessed 2 April 2015

UN Women date unknown

UN Women date unknown Beijing and Its Follow Up accessed 2 April 2015

WHO date unknown http// definitions/en/

World Health Organisation date unknown Infertility Definitions and Terminology

infertility/definitions/en/ accessed 14 March 2016

WHO 2009

_ terminology.pdf

World Health Organisation 2009 The International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technology (ICMART) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Revised Glossary on ART Terminology, 2009 reproductivehealth/publications/infertility/art_

terminology.pdf accessed 14 March 2016



How to Cite

van Niekerk, C. (2017). Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the Right to Reproduce Under South African Law. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 20, 1–31.




Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.