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Health minister orders abortion audit

Published:Thursday | November 2, 2017 | 3:05 PM

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has ordered a medical audit across the public-health system to determine the extent of the problem of attempted termination of pregnancy in Jamaica.

This follows information out of the Victoria Jubilee Hospital that more than 130 women turned up at the facility in the first nine months of this year seeking emergency treatment while either admitting that they attempted abortions or showing symptoms to suggest that they did.

Tufton is also moving to examine the current policy framework around family planning to determine what more could be done to discourage the dangerous and illegal practice of abortions.

"It is a sad commentary on our society when women, mostly young and poor, put their lives at risk, with apparently not much consideration for themselves or unborn foetus," said Tufton.

"It points to serious social deficit in our society. It tells me that we are doing something wrong as a society and that we are failing to adequately respond to their concerns and needs.

"So part of that audit will have to include assessing current family planning methods, including public education, counselling, contraception, fostering and adoption," added Tufton.

The health minister said he is convinced that dialogue needs to be had around abortion as a legal option, as many women are still taking the risk supported by their doctors, or worse, self-administered.

"I don't think we can continue to keep our heads in the sand and pretend it does not happen. To do that would be to ignore a major health and social risk to a significant cohort of our society," said Tufton.

"If a national dialogue and policy review around abortion determines that it will continue to not be an option, then we must do a better job at enforcing the law. If we agree it should be (an option), we should make it available and safer to be administered," added the health minister.