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Abortion Under ApartheidNationalism, Sexuality, and Women's Reproductive Rights in South Africa$
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Susanne M. Klausen

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199844494

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199844494.001.0001

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“I’d Never Had Pain Like That—A Searing, Dying Agony”

“I’d Never Had Pain Like That—A Searing, Dying Agony”

Racialized Clandestine Abortion

(p.15) Chapter 1 “I’d Never Had Pain Like That—A Searing, Dying Agony”
Abortion Under Apartheid

Susanne M. Klausen

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the methods African women used to procure abortion prior to colonialism and the importation to South Africa of colonial laws prohibiting abortion. It explains why clandestine abortion, widely practiced but almost invisible, became a political issue in the 1960s. It shows that starting in the 1960s, black and white women with incomplete or botched abortions began streaming in large numbers to emergency departments in urban hospitals in Soweto, Cape Town, and Durban. Turning to hospitals was not always an act of desperation. It was widely known doctors could not perform abortions on request, but they could legally treat woman presenting at hospitals with symptoms of incomplete or septic abortion. Therefore, in order to circumvent the law, women commonly followed a two-step procedure for obtaining safe abortions.

Keywords:   Colonialism, Clandestine abortion, Soweto, Cape Town, Durban, Two-step abortion method

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