Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Christopher Johnson | Who should legislate when a woman can have an abortion?

Published:Saturday | February 9, 2019 | 12:57 AM

There has been much debate about abortion being legalised in Jamaica. In fact, this very week the issue of the right to choose with regard to abortion was debated in the Jamaican Parliament.

Many have taken various sides – some claiming pro life, some the woman has the right to choose, while others believe there is no reason or circumstance where abortion can be acceptable.

Many have joined the discussion about who has the right to legislate or even speak about abortion. For some, a male cannot add his voice to the call for or against abortion. Reason stated from time to time is that a male will never experience abortion.

Question: does your personal experience allow you to speak authoritatively on the issue of abortion?

The fact is, some males have given great contribution to the subject, even presenting themselves as an authority on the matter.

Others have said that the Bible is the legislative tool on the issue. Exodus 20:13 King James Version (KJV) “Thou shalt not kill”. From this premise, many argue that abortion cannot be right in any form, as you are hell-bound.

Many have taken this command so far that if a woman has had a miscarriage, she must be jailed, for it is considered abortion.

Some have gone to the point of saying that abortion should carry a death sentence or even life imprisonment.

Our own country has a harsh punishment for abortion, based on a high Christian centre values. In many countries, having an abortion is seen as the unpardonable sin.

But what happens when the life of the mother is at risk? What happens when the mother has been raped?

Many will counter those arguments to say the life of the unborn child is of greater importance. So should we kill to save a life? Can the Bible be or act as the tool for legislating abortion, or is it our interpretation of the scriptures that should be used to legislate abortion?


The Parliament has been vested with the power of enacting laws of a country; however, can the subject of abortion be left to just 63 individuals to decide when is it right for an abortion to be done or not be done at all?

Many have argued that Jamaica is bigger and more diverse than the 63 members of Parliament. Many of these MPs themselves have no need for an abortion, or better yet are men and cannot/should not continue to speak on the issue of abortion.

So, should the issue be placed on the ballot paper and a question to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on abortion? Should a grand islandwide education campaign be done on the subject, then a referendum, or should we sit back and allow this to go to rest?

The choice of a woman is a big selling point for the discussion, as many believe that a woman’s right to choose must be respected before any legislator decide on legalising abortion.

The power of choice is critical to the discussion, therefore, what happens when choice is not guided by strong education on the subject at hand?

It is believed that just about 22,000 abortions are done in Jamaica per year and a woman does not have the right to choose an abortion. So will the numbers be greater in Jamaica if a woman is given the right to abort a baby? Will a woman’s means of getting out of a so-called mistake be just to end the pregnancy? Will the power of choice be extended to all women in society despite race, status, or education? Will the choice be solely for a woman to make, or will the man have a say?

Arguing from a point of religion, abortion cannot be acceptable; however, another argument would be that the power of choice must be respected.

I am of the firm opinion that the issue of abortion must be properly debated, put aside biases, put aside ideologies, put aside religious views and look at the issue at hand.

Can abortion be right, can abortion be acceptable, should abortion be the alternative?

I believe the discussion needs more exploration and less emotion.

Christopher Johnson is a minister of religion in Hanover. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and chrisron23@gmail.com