Gender, abortion and substantive representation in the South African newsprint media

  • Feltham-King T
  • Macleod C
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Democratisation and abortion legislation transformation in South Africa provided a unique opportunity to reflect on the descriptive and substantive representation of women regarding abortion in the newsprint media. Using Celis and Childs' (2012) inductive approach, we conducted a content analysis of newspaper articles on abortion from 1978 to 2005 answering: 'Who is called upon to comment on abortion issues?'; 'From what position do these commentators contribute to the discussion?'; 'What changes emerged around the transition to democracy?' Our analysis revealed the distinctly gendered nature of substantive representation of abortion in the newsprint media, including: a bifurcation of positions taken by male and female commentators, with around two-thirds of women commentators substantively representing women through a pro-choice position; a consistency in the percentage of female commentators taking this position both before and after democratisation; and the socio-political changes shifting male commentators' perspectives from neutral or unstated positions to, mostly, a pro-life position.

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