Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 2298–2312 | Cite as

Reasons for Abortion: Religion, Religiosity/Spirituality and Attitudes of Male Secondary School Youth in South Africa

  • Lebohang Selebalo-Bereng
  • Cynthia Joan PatelEmail author
Original Paper


This study focused on the relationship between religion, religiosity/spirituality (R/S), and attitudes of a sample of South African male secondary school youth toward women’s rights to legal abortion in different situations. We distributed 400 self-administered questionnaires assessing the main variables (attitudes toward reasons for abortion and R/S) to the target sample in six different secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The responses of a final sample of 327 learners were then analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. The findings revealed that religion and R/S play a role in the youths’ attitudes toward abortion. While the Hindu subsample indicated higher overall support across the different scenarios, the Muslim subsample reported greater disapproval than the other groups on ‘Elective reasons’ and in instances of ‘Objection by significant others.’ The Christian youth had the most negative attitudes to abortion for ‘Traumatic reasons’ and ‘When women’s health/life’ was threatened. Across the sample, higher R/S levels were linked with more negative attitudes toward reasons for abortion.


Abortion attitudes Male youth Religion Religiosity/spirituality South Africa 


  1. Adamczyk, A. (2013). The effect of personal religiosity on attitudes toward abortion, divorce and gender equality—Does cultural context make a difference? EurAmerica,43(1), 213–253.Google Scholar
  2. Adesola, A. F. (2013). Attitude of adolescents towards abortion in Ilorin Metropolis. International Journal of Psychology and Counselling,5(4), 62–65.Google Scholar
  3. Agadjanian, V. (2002). Adolecents’ views on childbearing, contraception, and abortion in two post-communist societies. Journal of Youth Studies,5(4), 391–406.Google Scholar
  4. Agostino, B. M., & Wahlberg, V. (1991). Adolescents’attitudes to abortion in samples from Italy and Sweden. Social Science and Medicine,33(1), 77–82.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartowski, J. P., Ramos-Wada, A. I., Ellison, C. G., & Acevedo, G. A. (2012). Faith, race-ethnicity, and public policy preferences: Religious schemas and abortion attitudes among U.S. Latinos. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,51(2), 343–358.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, D., Garcia, S. G., & Larsen, U. (2002). Knowledge and opinions about abortion law among Mexican youth. International Family Planning Perspectives,28(4), 205–213.Google Scholar
  7. Berry, D. M., Bass, C. P., Forawi, W., Neuman, M., & Abdallah, N. (2011). Measuring religiosity/spirituality in diverse religious groups: A consideration of methods. Journal of Religion and Health,50, 841–851.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Boggess, S., & Bradner, C. (2000). Trends in adolescent males’ abortion attitudes, 1988-1995: Differences by race and ethnicity. Family Planning Perspectives,32(3), 118–123.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bruckner, H., Martin, A., & Bearman, P. S. (2004). Ambivalence and pregnancy: Adolescents’ attitudes, contraceptive use and pregnancy. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,36(6), 248–257.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bryan, J. W., & Freed, F. W. (1993). Abortion research: attitudes, sexual behavior, and problems in a community college population. Journal of Youth and Adolescence,22(1), 1–21.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Clements, B. (2014). Religion and the sources of public opposition to abortion in Britain: The role of ‘belonging’, ‘behaving’, and ‘believing’. Sociology,48(2), 369–386.Google Scholar
  12. Clyde, J., Bain, J., Castagnaro, K., Rueda, M., Tatum, C., & Watson, K. (2013). Evolving capacity and decision-making in practice: adolescents’ access to legal abortion services in Mexico City. Reproductive Health Matters,21(41), 167–175.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cochran, J. K., Chamlin, M. B., Beeghley, L., Harnden, A., & Blackwell, B. S. (1996). Religious stability, endogamy, and the effects of personal religiosity on attitudes to abortion. Sociology of Religion,57(3), 291–309.Google Scholar
  14. Cooper, D., Chelsea, M., Orner, P., Moodley, J., Harries, J., Cullingworth, L., et al. (2004). Ten years of democracy in South Africa: Documenting transformation in reproductive health policy and status. Reproductive Health Matters,12(24), 70–85.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Corkindale, C. J., Condon, J. T., Russell, A., & Quinlivan, J. A. (2009). Factors that adolescent males take into account in decisions about an unplanned pregnancy. Journal of Adolescence,32, 995–1008.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Einolf, C. J. (2013). Daily spiritual experiences and prosocial behaviour. Social Indicators Research,110, 71–87.Google Scholar
  17. Ellison, C. G., Echevarria, S., & Smith, B. (2005). Religion and abortion attitudes among U.S. Hispanics: findings from the 1990 Latino National Political Survey. Social Science Quarterly,86(1), 192–208.Google Scholar
  18. Gmeiner, A., van Wyk, S., & Mpshe, W. S. (2002). Emotional support for adolescents who opted for termination of pregnancy. Health SA Gesondheid,7(4), 13–23.Google Scholar
  19. Gresh, A., & Maharaj, P. (2014). Termination of pregnancy: perspectives of female students in Durban, South Africa. Supplement on Population Issues in South Africa,28(1), 681–690.Google Scholar
  20. Harries, J., Stinson, K., & Orner, P. (2009). Health care providers’ attitudes toward termination of pregnancy: A qualitative study in South Africa. BMC Public Health, 9, 296. Scholar
  21. Harris, R. J., & Mills, E. W. (1985). Religion, values and attitudes toward abortion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,24(2), 119–236.Google Scholar
  22. Hedayat, K. M., Shooshtarizadeh, P., & Raza, M. (2006). Therapeutic abortion in Islam: contemporary views of Muslim Shiite scholars and effect of recent Iranian legislation. Journal of Medical Ethics,32, 652–657.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Hess, J. A., & Rueb, J. D. (2005). Attitudes twoard abortion, religion and party affiliation among college students. Current Psychology,24(1), 24–42.Google Scholar
  24. Hessini, L. (2007). Abortion and Islam: Policies and practice in the Middle East and North Africa. Reproductive Health Matters,15(29), 75–84.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Idler, E. (2003). Values. Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research (pp. 25–29). Kalamazoo: John E. Fetzer Institute.Google Scholar
  26. Jacobs, R., & Hornsby, N. (2014). Why aren’t women getting safe abortions? South African Medical Journal,104(12), 857–858.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Jelen, T. G. (2014). The subjective bases of abortion attitudes; A cross national comparison of religious traditions. Politics and Religion,7, 550–567.Google Scholar
  28. Jelen, T., & Wilcox, C. (2003). Causes and consequences of public attitudes toward abortion: A review and research agenda. Political Research Quarterly,56, 489–500.Google Scholar
  29. Lohan, M., Cruise, S., O’Halloran, P., Alderdice, F., & Hyde, A. (2010). Adoelscent men’s attitudes in relation to pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes: a systematic review of the literature from 1980-2009. Journal of Adolescent Health,47, 327–345.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Loi, U. R., Gemzell-Danielson, K., Faxelid, E., & Klingberg-Allvin, M. (2015). Health care providers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards induced abortions in sub-Saharan africa and Southeast Asia: a systematic literature review of qualitative and quantitative data. BMC Public Health,15, 1–13.Google Scholar
  31. Macleod, C. I., & Hansjee, J. (2013). Men and talk about legal abortion in south africa: Equality, support and rights discourses undermining reproductive ‘choice’. Culture Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care,15(8), 997–1010.Google Scholar
  32. Macleod, C., Seutlwadi, L., & Steele, G. (2014). Cracks in reproductive health rights: Buffalo City learners’ knowledge of abortion legislation. Health SA Gesondheid. Scholar
  33. Marsiglio, W., & Shehan, C. L. (1993). Adolescent male abortion attitudes: Data from a national survey. Family Planning Perspectives,25(4), 37–53.Google Scholar
  34. Misra, R., & Hohman, S. (2000). Trends in abortion attitudes among young adults: 1977-1993. American Journal of Health Studies,16(2), 85–98.Google Scholar
  35. Mncwango, B., & Rule, S. (2008). South Africans against abortion. Social Attitudes Survey, 6–7. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from
  36. Morroni, C., Myer, L., & Tibazarwa, K. (2006). Knowledge of the abortion legislation among South African women: a cross-sectional study. Reproductive Health,3, 7.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Mpshe, W. S., Gmeiner, A., & van Wyk, S. (2002). Experiences of Black adolescents who chose to terminate their pregnancies. Health SA Gesondheid,7(1), 68–72.Google Scholar
  38. Mwaba, K., & Naidoo, P. (2006). Knowledge, beliefs and attitudes regarding abortion in South Africa among a sample of university students. Journal of Psychology in Africa,16(1), 53–58.Google Scholar
  39. National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Framework Strategy (2015). Retrieved March 1, 2011 from
  40. Nelson, E., & Coleman, P. (1997). Attitudes toward the level of men’s involvement in abortion decisions. Journal of Humanistic Education & Development,35(4), 217–224.Google Scholar
  41. Neuman, W. L. (2011). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  42. Ngene, N. C., Ross, A., & Moodley, J. (2013). Characteristics of women having first-trimester terminations of pregnancy at a district hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. Souther African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection,28(2), 102–105.Google Scholar
  43. Panday, S., Makiwane, M., Ranchod, C., & Letsoalo, T. (2009). Teenage pregnancy in South Africa—with a specific focus on school-going learners. Child, youth, family and social development, HSRC. Pretoria: Department of Basic Education.Google Scholar
  44. Patel, C. J., & Johns, L. (2009). Gender role attitudes and attitudes to abortion: Are there gender differences? The Social Science Journal,46, 493–505.Google Scholar
  45. Patel, C. J., & Kooverjee, T. (2009). Abortion and contraception: Attitudes of South African university students. Health Care for Women International,30, 550–568.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Patel, C. J., & Myeni, M. C. (2008). Attitudes toward abortion in a sample of South African female university students. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,38(3), 736–750.Google Scholar
  47. Patel, C. J., Naidoo, S., & Paruk, Z. (2013). Psychometric properties of the Religious Orientation Test (ROT) in a sample of South African students. Journal of Psychology in Africa.,23(1), 145–148.Google Scholar
  48. Patel, C. J., Ramgoon, S., & Paruk, Z. (2009). Exploring religion, race and gender as factors in the life satisfaction and religisoity of young South African adults. South African Journal of Psychology,39(3), 266–274.Google Scholar
  49. Riddell, P. (2005). Islam, personhood and, where is God in all this? EQ,77(1), 47–63.Google Scholar
  50. Rule, C. (2002). Spirituality in South Africa: Christian beliefs. In HSRC public attitudes in contemprary South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.Google Scholar
  51. Sawyer, S. M., Afifi, R. A., Bearinger, L. H., et al. (2012). Adolesecnce: A foundation for future health. Lancet,379, 1630–1640.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Seguino, S. (2011). Help or hindrance? Religion’s impact on gender inequality in attitudes and outcomes. World Development,8, 1308–1321.Google Scholar
  53. Sharp, E., Richters, J., & Rutherford, A. (2015). “Um…I’m pregnant.” Young men’s attitudes towards their roles in abortion decision-making. Sexuality Research and Social Policy,12, 155–162.Google Scholar
  54. Shisana, O., Rehle, T., Simbayi, L. C., Zuma, K., Jooste, S., Zungu, N., et al. (2014). South African national HIV prevalence, incidence and behaviour survey. Cape Town: HSRC Press.Google Scholar
  55. South African Demographic and Health Survey. (1998). Retrieved June 15, 2000, from
  56. South African youth are optimistic about our future (2005). Retrieved October 25, 2005 from
  57. Stone, R., & Waszak, C. (1992). Adolescent knowledge and attitudes about abortion. Family Planning Perspectives,24(2), 52–57.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Underwood, L., & Teresi, J. A. (2002). The Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale: Development, theoretical description, reliability, exploratory factor analysis, and preliminary construct validity using health-related data. Annals of Behavioral Medicine,24(1), 22–33.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Varga, C. A. (2002). Pregnancy termination among South African adolescents. Studies in Family Planning,33(4), 283–298.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Varkey, S. J. (2000). Abortion services in South Africa: Available yet not accessible to all. International Family Planning Perspectives,26(2), 87–88.Google Scholar
  61. Vekelman, M. (2007). “Note” International planned parenthood federation, 160. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from
  62. Wall, S. N., Frieze, I. H., Ferligoj, A., Jarosova, E., Pauknerova, D., Horvat, J., et al. (1999). Gender role and religion as predictors of attitude toward abortion in Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,30(4), 443–465.Google Scholar
  63. Wheeler, S. B., Zullig, L. L., Reeve, B. B., Buga, G. A., & Morroni, C. (2012). Attitudes and intentions regarding abortion provision among medical school students in South Africa. International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,38(3), 154–163.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  64. Zaidi, S., Ramarajan, A., Qiu, R., Raucher, M., Chadwick, R., & Nossier, A. (2009). Sexual rights and gender roles in a religious context. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics,106, 151–155.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Zantsi, K., Pettifor, A., Madikizela_Hlongwa, L., MacPhail, C., & Rees, H. (2004). Religiousness and sexual behaviour among South African youth. Retrieved October 1, 2007, from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Psychology, School of Applied Human SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations