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Take Your Nose Out of Women’s Womb

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2015 | 5:00 AMJaevion Nelson

The termination of pregnancies should be legal in Jamaica. There is absolutely no sense holding on to such an archaic law that serves our society no purpose whatsoever. Sections 72 and 73 of the Offences Against the Person Act should be repealed in accordance with the recommendations tabled in 2007, which outlined very clearly the conditions under which abortion should be made lawful.

The Abortion Policy Review Group recommends (taken verbatim):

n Repeal the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Persons Act, and substitute it with a Civil Law, titled 'Termination of Pregnancy Act', stating the conditions under which medical termination of pregnancy will be lawful.

n Develop, maintain and staff specified centres in each health region for the provision of therapeutic abortions.

n Doctors' private offices may be assessed, registered and monitored for the provision of abortion services for women who are less than 12 weeks pregnant.

n Pregnancies up to 12 weeks gestation (calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period) can be performed in registered facilities by an authorised medical practitioner in consultation with the woman. The methods recommended are pharmaceuticals, and menstrual vacuum aspiration.

n Termination of pregnancies over 22 weeks gestation is not recommended, except under exceptional circumstances agreed by the woman and two authorised medical practitioners and performed in an appropriate setting authorised by the ministry.

There are a few other recommendations, including how to treat with those with intellectual/mental disability and persons under 18 (See http://bit.ly/YEg8nG).

Now that that bit of information is out of the way, what a woman - whether in consultation with her male partner (if she has one) or not - decides to do with her body is not the business of the Church or our warped and often convenient morals. It also does not matter if you would procure an abortion for yourself or help someone to procure one. Frankly, that is your business if you decide to give birth to a child you didn't plan for, is mistimed and perhaps don't want. The whole point of a law making abortion permissible is simply to not make criminals of those who wish to have one done for whatever reason.

 

WHAT THE STATS SAY

 

In 2008, according to the Reproductive Health Survey (RHS), 30.9 per cent of pregnancies were mistimed and 15.9 per cent were unwanted. Shouldn't these women and girls enjoy their personhood by being able to procure an abortion if they wanted to since their pregnancy was unplanned? The survey also shows that 66.2 per cent of 15-19-year-olds said their pregnancy was mistimed and 14.6 per cent of pregnancy was unwanted. Among 20-24-year-olds, 47.4 per cent of pregnancies were mistimed and 8.4 per cent unwanted. And 27.6 per cent and 13.1 per cent of women 25-29 years said their pregnancy was mistimed and unwanted, respectively. Shouldn't these young women and girls be able to access safe and affordable services to terminate their pregnancy? The percentages of women from the second and lowest wealth quintile and those with two or more children and those with education below grade 12 is similarly high. Why should these women and girls be forced to seek underground and often botched services that can harm their lives terribly? Why? They should have known not to have sex and do what is necessary to have prevent being impregnated, right? Even if it means doing it in the water (LOL).

 

IT DOESN'T MATTER

 

It shouldn't matter if the woman or girl was 'careless' and refused to use a condom or didn't use it correctly. It doesn't matter if she and/or her partner can't afford to take care of a child, or she already has a dozen and should know better. It doesn't matter if she was raped in or out of marriage. The only thing that matter is the fact that there are many women and girls in our country who need/want to procure an abortion and the law should allow them to.

You have all right to be concerned. You have the freedom to share your views on the matter. You have the right to opine that abortion shouldn't be legal. However, it doesn't matter really if the foetus inside the woman could or would be the next Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Portia Simpson Miller, or Nelson Mandela or you! That is not a reason to force people to have a child they did not plan for or want.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.