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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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“The Trial the World Is Watching”

“The Trial the World Is Watching”

The Crichton-Watts Trial, 1972

(p.107) Chapter 4 “The Trial the World Is Watching”
Abortion Under Apartheid

Susanne M. Klausen

Oxford University Press

This chapter recounts a spectacular trial that took place in Durban Supreme Court in November 1972 that for weeks splashed stories about clandestine abortion on the front pages of newspapers around the country. After an intense police investigation led by Major Dan Matthee, two men were prosecuted for conspiring to perform abortions on unmarried young white women: Dr. Derk Crichton, a renowned doctor, and James Watts, a non-medical abortionist. They were accused of acting in concert to procure twenty-six abortions. The high-profile trial attracted widespread attention in white South Africa at a moment when whites awaited the government’s proposed abortion law. It was perceived as a test of the judiciary’s stance on the common law on abortion. It was also a forum in which “wayward” white teenagers were punished for procuring abortions by being asked humiliating questions about their sex lives in front of members of the public and press.

Keywords:   Trial, Durban Supreme Court, Dan Matthee, Derk Crichton, James Watts, Medical professionClandestine abortion, Humiliation, Newspapers, White women

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