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Cracks in reproductive health rights: Buffalo City learners’ knowledge of abortion legislation

Catriona Macleod, Lebogang Seutlwadi, Gary Steele

Health SA Gesondheid; Vol 19, No 1 (2014), 10 pages. doi: 10.4102/hsag.v19i1.743

Submitted: 18 April 2013
Published:  19 June 2014


Background: The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy (CTOP) Act legalised abortion on request in South Africa until up to 12 weeks of gestation and thereafter under specified conditions. Within the context of liberal legislation, accurate information is a necessary (although not sufficient) requirement for women to exercise their reproductive rights.

Objectives: This research investigated Grade 11 learners’ knowledge of the CTOP Act and its stipulations.

Methods: Survey research was conducted with respondents drawn from a range of schools in Buffalo City, South Africa. Multi-stage sampling was used, namely stratified random sampling of schools and purposive sampling of grades used within schools. The data were collected by means of self-administered questionnaires in group situations.

Results: Results indicate that knowledge of the legal status of abortion, as well as of the various stipulations of the law, was poor. Various misunderstandings were evident, including that spousal approval is required in order for married women to have an abortion. Significant differences between the knowledge of respondents at the various schools were found, with those learners attending schools formerly designated for African learners during Apartheid having the least knowledge.

Conclusion: Given the multiple factors that may serve as barriers to women accessing abortion, it is imperative that at least the most fundamental aspect of reproductive rights, that is, the right to information, is not undermined.


Agtergrond: Die Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (CTOP) bewettig aborsie op aanvraag in Suid-Afrika tot en met 12 weke van swangerskap en daarna onder sekere voorwaardes. Binne die konteks van die liberale wetgewing is akkurate inligting ‘n noodsaaklike (hoewel nie voldoende nie) vereiste vir vroue om hul reproduktiewe regte uit te oefen.

Doelwitte: Die navorsing het graad 11-leerders se kennis van die CTOP Wet en dié se bepalings geondersoek.

Metodes: Opname-navorsing is gedoen met respondente uit ‘n verskeidenheid van skole in Buffalo City, Suid-Afrika. Multi-steekproefneming is gebruik, naamlik gestratifiseerde steekproefneming van skole en doelgerigte steekproefneming van grade in skole. Die data is ingesamel deur middel van self-geadministreerde vraelyste in groep situasies.

Resultate: Die resultate dui daarop dat die kennis van die wetlike status van aborsie, asook van die verskillende bepalings van die Wet, swak was. Verskeie misverstande was duidelik, insluitend dat ’n gade se toestemming nodig is vir getroude vroue se aborsie. Beduidende verskille tussen die kennis van die respondente by die onderskeie skole is gevind, met die swakste kennis onder dié leerders by skole wat voorheen aangewys is vir swart leerders tydens Apartheid.

Slot: Gegewe die verskeie faktore wat as hindernisse tot vroue se toegang tot aborsie kan dien, is dit noodsaaklik dat ten minste die mees basiese aspekte van reproduktiewe regte, naamlik, die reg tot inligting, nie geondermyn word nie.

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Author affiliations

Catriona Macleod, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, South Africa
Lebogang Seutlwadi, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, South Africa
Gary Steele, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, South Africa


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