"Reclaiming the white daughter's purity": Afrikaner nationalism, racialized sexuality, and the 1975 abortion and sterilization act in apartheid South Africa

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Abstract

This article examines the struggle over abortion law reform that preceded the enactment in 1975 of the first statutory law on abortion in South Africa. The ruling National Party government produced legislation intended to eliminate access to doctors willing to procure abortions in an attempt to prevent young, unmarried white women from engaging in premarital (hetero) sexual activity. It was also aimed at strictly regulating the medical profession's actions with regards to abortion. The production of the abortion legislation was directly influenced by international struggles for accessible abortion and, more broadly, sexual liberation. The regime believed South Africa was being infiltrated by Western "immorality" and the abortion law was an attempt to buttress racist heteropatriarchal apartheid culture. Examining the abortion controversy highlights the global circulation of ideas about reproduction in the twentieth century and foregrounds a neglected dimension of the history of sexual regulation in apartheid South Africa: the disciplining and regulation of white female reproductive sexuality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-63
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Women's History
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • History

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