Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Gleaner Editors' Forum | End abortion debate now - Groups agree there has been too much talk but no agreement on next step

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Jaevion Nelson (left) of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexual and Gays and Ivan Cruickshank of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, share thoughts during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on abortion last week.

Two local non-governmental organisations - Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexual and Gays (J-FLAG) and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) - have thrown their weight behind a call by St Andrew West Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn for the amendments of the law criminalising abortions in Jamaica.

During a heated Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, Executive Director of J-FLAG Jaevion Nelson said prohibitive legislation must be removed, and it must always be the woman's right to choose, and where necessary the man, if it was a joint decision.

Nelson argued that the debate on abortion is old, and while the issue has been discussed since the 1970s, Jamaica is still at the point of indecision while lives are being endangered and professionals face the risk of prosecution.

 

COSTLY INDECISION

 

"No action costs quite a lot. It costs people their lives, it costs the country quite a lot, because we have an entire section at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital that deals with botched abortions, which means that every year the taxpayers of this country fork out money ... to provide services to the people who could otherwise have had better services if they could access safe, legal affordable abortion services," Nelson told the forum.

He added that the time has come for the termination of pregnancies to be legal.

"I believe it is a right that women should have and they should enjoy their personhood as a result of the choice they make. I think we have enough evidence from Jamaica and elsewhere to provide us with the guidance to ensure that whatever services we have available are safe, affordable and accessible to the people who need it, when they need it," added Nelson.

He pointed to a report from a committee established by the Ministry of Health in 2005, and argued that it provides clear guidance about how Jamaica could go forward.

Ivan Cruickshank, executive director of CVC, also supported Cuthbert-Flynn's call.

"CVC takes a rights-based position to all of the work that we do, and one of the things that we recognise as critical is the right of a woman to choose," said Cruickshank.

Pointing to available data on abortions, he said despite the existence of the criminal penalty women were accessing the services.

 

PUBLIC HEALTH BURDEN

 

"And I daresay unsafe abortions are creating significant public health burden on the society ... another reason for our support of the call to decriminalise is that the majority of women affected are poorer women.

"That's where you find the botched abortions, that's where you find women unable to pay for the services that are not available in our public-health system," added Cruickshank

He told the forum that the CVC believes the State is able to provide safe, penalty-free abortions services, and there is no need for this issue to be put to a referendum.

But youth pastor at Fellowship Tabernacle, Kavan Allen, argued that the abortion debate was hearing one voice louder than another.

He agreed that the issue does not need to be put to a referendum as he argued that Jamaica just needs to grow a spine and make the right decision.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com