Time to change Jamaica’s archaic abortion laws

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Anthony Barrett

 

Abortion, like homosexuality, is a taboo subject in a Jamaica where morality is a thing of the past. This past week, a daily newspaper carried a series of articles on abortion so I began an unscientific poll. I asked more than fifty persons how they felt about legalized abortion and homosexuality. Surprisingly, the younger and more educated generation was more acceptable of both practices. While they opposed the legalization of both, they were tolerant and accepting, if not resigned, to the fact that those two things will be a part of every society’s fabric.

I grew up in a time when men suspected of being gay were harangued, assaulted and sometimes killed.  Young girls were maligned, slandered and called ‘kill belly gal’ if they were suspected of having an abortion. To this day, I have hurtful memories of a young lady who was pilloried by the hypocrites in my community of Granville because they thought she had committed abortion. Years later, I discovered that one of her greatest antagonists and detractors had in fact committed three abortions prior to her scurrilous assault against the innocent young lady.

As a father of eight girls, I am pro-abortion; I believe that women have and should maintain the right to control their wombs and reproductivity without interference and draconian anti-abortion legislation by governments which are mostly male-dominated. I say that from the position of knowledge and empathy for women, given the traumatic decisions they are forced to make when they must choose between bringing or not to bring an unwanted child into this world.

RIGHT TO CHOOSE

Legislatively, the Jamaican government needs to bring coherence to the issue of abortion. Yes, abortion is illegal in Jamaica but what makes it so? Abortion is a genuine health concern and should be embraced rather than outlawed. Because of governmental rigidity, in not acknowledging a woman’s right to choose, we have over the years seen a number of women visiting quacks posing as doctors. Many women died while others were left traumatized and regretting their decisions. This should not continue to be the path left to women.

If they choose not to be maimed or killed in some backroom, they are left with one other choice, the black-market abortion pills. While there is no evidence that Jamaican females have died from the usage of such, others seeking quick abortions in Africa and the Caribbean have.

The time has come for women’s reproductive rights. No longer can we allow government to restrict those rights thus forcing women to seek back market alternatives or backroom abortions. Let us be mature adults and recognize that abortion of unwanted pregnancies is a reality that occurs daily in Jamaica. If a woman chooses to be invaded by a quack, the minimum she will pay is $30,000.00 and there are no guarantees she won’t have biological complications in future. If a woman opts for the non-invasive pill, she has no guarantee that the pills she buys on the Black Market are genuine. We must recognize those facts and enact legislation to protect a woman’s right to choose.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Thirty-two years ago, I paid for an abortion in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. I no longer question if it was the right decision. I know it was. My then partner had two children from a prior relationship before she gave birth to my second child. My daughter, the only child I had with her, was born in May. In October that same year, she became pregnant again, because of a multiplicity of reasons; domestic and financially, we both knew we didn’t want another child. Frankly, we knew there was no future for our continued relationship and another child would add further complication to a loveless relationship.

Callously and unthinkingly, I told her to get an abortion at the Planned Parenthood office which was about a mile from our home.  For days, that proud, strong woman cried as she contemplated my harsh suggestion. One Friday night about two weeks later, I returned home after I had done my carousing, to find a resolute and angry woman waiting up for me.

I still remember that cussing out, not conversation. However, it was reasoned, without the usual acerbic blaming accusation, highly intellectual, given her academic background. That night I learnt the magnitude of emotions a woman goes through when she is faced with the prospect of abortion. On May 18, 2018, my daughter celebrated her birthday, her younger sibling will never celebrate a birthday. Today, her mother is no longer traumatized but I suspect she remains scarred because of that decision. Let me hasten to say, over the years, she never expressed regrets to me. However, if she never had that choice, our lives would have been more miserable. I wonder how many Jamaican women, because of our archaic laws, have been forced to carry into this world unwanted children.

Peace! mocobarrett@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Except for our editorials on these pages, the views expressed in other correspondence to us do not necessarily reflect our view and way of thinking.

 

 

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