The Medical History of Abortion in South Africa, c. 1950 to 2010


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


The ‘health humanities’ is an emerging field of research, seeking to apply the investigative approaches of humanities scholarship to subjects that have fallen traditionally within the realms of medicine and public health. This research aims to explore the history of abortion in South Africa from the 1950s to the present, a period characterized by momentous changes in the medical, legal and social reception of abortion across the globe. Through combining an array of sources, and through an innovative treatment of clinical case reports in particular, this research seeks to provide new insights into the history of reproductive health. It aims to explore how changes in social conditions, laws, technologies and beliefs about the roles of women have determined the ways in which they have terminated their pregnancies, contextualizing this within the broader social and medical history of South Africa.