Abortion is a woman’s right

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Anthony Barrett

“Any realistic vision of change must be based on the notion of empowerment of people.” – ‘The Poverty of Nations’, Michael Manley’s seventh book, published 1991

Separate and apart from our domestic politics, there are two other polarizing issues which, without rhyme or reason, divide Jamaica: abortion and homosexuality. Many of us scribes have shied away from addressing both for fear of getting labeled.  Today, before our parliament, the issue of abortion is up for debate/discussion.

Let me be clear, as a father of eight girls, I do believe that a woman has the right to choose. It’s her body, her time, her patience, her nurturing. Make no mistake, most Jamaican men are breeders, not fathers.  Be honest, ask yourself – What should a young, ambitious female do with an unwanted child when she realizes the father will be an absentee and the social intervention programmes in this country do not, fulsomely, address the issue of adoption? Given the dire economic situation in Jamaica, there are few Jamaicans who are willing to adopt a child and provide a proper, loving and nurturing home.

With that said, there can be no doubt as to my position on abortion. For those not so subtle or cogent, I am pro-abortion and most importantly, I am an advocate of a woman’s right to choose, to determine whether or not she carries a child. For too long, publicly, many Jamaicans have objected to abortion yet they have, in some ways, facilitated the practice. Oh, what sanctimonious hypocrites we are.

Here in Jamaica, the Morning After Pill can be bought legally in certain pharmacies and on the streets. There is no furor from the church and the self-righteous hypocrites. As the devil’s advocate, is the morning after pill a legalized form of abortion? If the church is so incensed and morally perturbed, why have they not protested such activities?

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I am not a new advocate of abortion. In my memory I have never been pro-life. My once ambivalent position on abortion changed in the early 1980’s. As a young graduate from Cornwall College, I did 6th form at the Montego Bay Community College. There, I met and fell in love with a young lady. My supplications and declaration of love to her fell on deaf ears, she only had eyes for a man, who, like I, had no visible means of income. Unlike me, he drove the most coveted Westminster motor cars whilst I depended on my friend, Robin Clarke for transportation home to Granville after classes.

Over time, this young lady and I became true friends despite my unrequited love for her. Towards the end of our first year at Com C, I found her under an almond tree quietly crying to herself. After hugging and cajoling her, I found out that she was pregnant and the father didn’t want her or the child. She couldn’t tell her well-to-do parents. She was by then contemplating suicide. I convinced her to leave school and go to Granville with me so we could best discuss the matter. There was a pond below Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College. To access it, you either had to ask the guard’s permission or climb the wall. We climbed the wall. Sitting by that pond side, water lilies and ducks, we decided on a course of action. No way could she drop out of school, no way could her parents learn of her misfortune.

Like her, I was saving my meagre earnings from Holiday Inn. We pooled our money and three weeks later, we went to one of the most eminent doctors in Montego Bay. We had gotten the doctor’s name via my enquiries. Ashamed, we went to see the doctor. After a scouring scolding, the doctor decided he would do the procedure the next day. Elated, we asked how much. Suffice it to say, we were $1,000.00 short. I remember well going to my sister Sybil at her business place on Creek St. and lying to her to get that $1,000.00. The next day we achieved our objective. Today, this female has a son but the most important fact is that she is one of the three most pre-eminent brain surgeons in America.

WHAT IF?

This lady remains a lifelong friend. She, in the time given her based on the demand for her skills, counsels and assists young women who are in the position she once was. Had my friend carried that unwanted child, she would have done so on her own. The father died in a shootout with the police in Flanker. Had she not done that, she would not have gained the education and skills to save lives.

A few years before her mother died, surprisingly, I saw the mom, then a Jamaican school principal, in my then hometown of Philadelphia at the Penn Relays. After hugs and greetings, we sat beside each other in the stands watching the races. At the end of the day, I invited her to dinner at my home in Ardmore. After dinner, while showing her my Jamaican plants, she said to me: “I know you impregnated my daughter because the doctor you both went to is my friend, who called me. I respect you for correcting your mistake.”

I didn’t make that mistake, but how many young girls are in that position my friend was once in? In my life, I have paid for five abortions, four were mine. Father Ho-lung and Damion Crawford and other professed anti-abortionists, whilst I accept your positions, there are extenuating factors which contribute to abortion. I dare to ask of you all, can you provide a safe space for these unwanted babies? Can you imprison all doctors who provide that necessary service? Do you know them? I guarantee that I can find among eminent doctors many illegal abortionists. If you both are so upset, start advocating for a ban on the of sale of the Morning After Pill. Peace! mocobarret@yahoo.com

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