Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


Abortion in South Africa is a complex topic, rife with augmenting and limiting political, social, religious, and cultural factors. In South Africa, abortion has been legal since 1996; however, abortions have been performed for centuries in the region. Although abortion is legal, many factors influence a woman’s choice and ability to terminate a pregnancy. Religious and cultural norms within morally conservative societies contribute to negative abortion sentiments and hesitation to seek formal medical abortions. This study explored multiple age groups within Cato Manor and whether the attitudes towards abortion and factors impacting the choice of where and whether to receive an abortion differ. The study employs a general qualitative approach with inserted narratives highlighting individual perspectives and stories. The sample cohort was identified using purposive sampling of women, obtained via convenience through Thando Mhlongo, the gatekeeper in the community. The participants are from two generations, and two expert interviews were conducted to gain various perspectives. The sample population is from the greater Cato Manor community, and the interviews were conducted in a semi-structured format. The main goal of this study was to understand how socio-cultural factors impact abortion attitudes within each generation in Cato Manor and if community attitudes impact women’s decisions on how and where to obtain medical abortions. The findings showed that negative attitudes towards abortion persist in Cato Manor due to religious and cultural rationale. Greater acceptance occurs among younger generations following abortion legalization in South Africa, yet prejudice remains. As a result, women are pressured to get abortions for a range of factors, so they turn to illegal options to avoid community shame.


African Studies | Medicine and Health | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Women's Health | Women's Studies


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