Examining attitudes towards reproductive rights in the Gauteng City-Region of South Africa

(June 2015)

Mahomed, F. Social Indicators Research, 127(3) 1297-1319

South Africa has one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world, emphasising the right to reproductive choice, in keeping with the country’s post-apartheid emphasis on human rights. Access to abortion may also be considered a public health consideration, due to the large number of complications associated with illegal abortions and the associated burden of care. Despite these justifications for a more permissive stance towards abortion, there remain large segments of South African society who are opposed to termination of pregnancy on request. This paper examines the status of reproductive rights in South Africa before looking more closely at public attitudes towards them in the country’s largest city-region. It uses survey data considering attitudes towards abortion as well as the interaction of these attitudes with the variables of race, gender, education level and age using multinomial logistic regression. The results indicate that the largest proportion of respondents oppose abortion absolutely, while a smaller proportion would be open to abortion if the mother’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy was a result of rape. Throughout, the smallest proportion of respondents was of the view that abortion on request is a human right. In terms of predictive value, educational attainment was a stronger predictor than age, race or gender, though there is a distinct lack of consistency in predictive validity of all factors, demonstrating the significant gap between the liberality of laws and the conservatism of public attitudes. Read more