Narratives on abortion : psychological, ethical and religious considerations.
The introduction of the Termination of Pregnancy Act, No. 92 of 1996 was welcomed by pro-choice groups but it did raise strong opposition from pro-life groups. The pro-life/pro-life dichotomy reflects the polarization of extreme views and forms the basis of the intense abortion debate with little opportunity to reconcile the views. Although abortions are common in South Africa, not many studies have explored the experiences of women, men and health professionals related to abortions. This study aimed at fulfilling this gap. Adopting a qualitative paradigm and a feminist research design, it explored the psychosocial, religious and ethical considerations which affect women’s decision-making, and men’s and health professionals’ views on abortion. Analysis of the data was carried out by means of critical discourse analysis and presented according to several themes. The data challenges the conventional pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy. Despite deciding on the abortion, the language used by the women reflected decidedly pro-life views. None of them expressed the view that abortion was right. Their narratives reflected various structural conditions that pushed them into making the abortion decision. Despite living in a predominantly pronatalistic world, society generally prescribes the ideal conditions under which pregnancy and childbirth should occur. Thus pregnancy outside of the institution of marriage is frowned upon. Circumstances resulting from dominant pronatalistic and patriarchal discourses and practices that have made women unequal partners in society, force women to opt for decisions such as abortion. While the focus is on the fulfilment of women’s rights, from an individual liberal perspective, there is a general failure to appraise the structural conditions that fail women, thereby rendering women’s choices to be constrained by their social and financial circumstances. Based on the results of the study proposals are made with regard to future research on abortion, and policy and practice.