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Editors' Forum | Advocates push for different public education on abortion

Published:Thursday | July 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Shirley Richards
Ivan Cruickshank

Advocates on either side of the abortion debate agree that the citizenry, youth in particular, is in need of more clarity on the controversial topic. But both sides contend that a different campaign is required to achieve this.

For Shirley Richards, attorney-at-law and member of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, a public-education campaign designed to help people value life is urgently required.

Richards, who was among a group of panellists at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Tuesday, argued that the campaign, which would cover the length and breadth of the island, should be titled 'Respect for Life'. "As a nation, we have not yet grasped the importance and sacredness of life," Richards asserted.

"We must help our young people, in particular, to understand that life begins at conception and must be respected. This campaign would help not only our women, but also our men, to understand that what is in the womb is not a mass of tissue, but a special, unique individual," said Richards, who added that the coalition would be willing to play a leading role in the campaign.

On the other hand, pro-choice advocate Ivan Cruickshank, executive director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, argued that the need was greater for public education around responsible sexual behaviour and practices.

Furthermore, Cruickshank reasoned that comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education should commence at the respective levels of the education system.

"A lot of this is around sex, and the society does not have constructive conversation around sex that can properly inform how we do what we do. So, there's also a need for campaigns across the society around some of these issues, whether it is a media campaign or general campaign that is driven by the State and agencies of the state that are responsible for reproductive health," said Cruickshank.