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