Dissonance of rights: digital space, an enabler of conversations about abortion amongst some South Africans

Keywords: Health communication, Social media, Online communication, Social represention, Social represention theory, Abortion, Human rights, Dissenting perspectives, Pro-life, Pro-choice


Discussions about abortion evoke strong, complex sentiments. In many societies, and religious and civil society organisations, using moral grandstanding drives polarised sentiments about abortion in the public sphere. These discussions frequently adopt a stance on the health of women versus the foetus that transcends health-related aspects to include the rights of women versus others in society. Yet the complexity and polarisation as reflected in public narratives has been underexplored. This article examines Twitter conversations on the topic. Through a social representation approach, the article analyses the representations made regarding termination of pregnancy, arising social representations, and the communication consequences. The social ecological model studies people in their environments and the influences they hold on each other. Netnography was used to analyse online conversations, which ultimately filtered into traditional media enabling convergence. This study contributes to communication scholarship by highlighting the growing role of social media to enable expression of various dissenting perspectives, from a “safe space” to a subject that would ordinarily be inaccessible through discordance.


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