Home Institution

Georgetown University

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


This perspectives research endeavor examines the barriers to TOP access that arise from conscientious objection through the conflicting network of rights and legislation in South Africa. While previous research has evidenced the demonstrable barriers to accessing TOP care in South Africa, this project aims to push the existing literature and the field as a whole one step further to interrogate how to move forward within the realities of conscientious objection.

To do so, I conducted interviews with key informants in the field of reproductive healthcare provision, research, and activism in Cape Town on their perspectives about the practice of conscientious objection, specifically focusing on their recommendations for how to address the barriers to abortion access that arise from the right to freedom of conscience.

Through this perspectives research, I found that there is general consensus among the participants of this study and other experts in the field around the barriers to accessing TOP services in South Africa and around conscientious objection in particular. The key informants interviewed for this project, despite their diverse backgrounds and unique approaches to the field, offer parallel recommendations for addressing conscientious objection. These recommendations include creating and enforcing official guidelines for how conscientious objection is used in practice and the role of authority in particular, transforming public perceptions of TOP, establishing incentives programs to encourage increased access, and fundamentally altering the way the right to freedom of conscience is conceptualized. These recommendations require transformation on multiple fronts, but are essential to guaranteeing basic human rights in the country.


African Studies | Health Policy | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Health | Women's Studies


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