Letter of the Day | Break down barriers to abortion
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Jamaica, like many developing countries across the world, is in need of laws that create space for safe-abortion care. Many persons in Jamaica, particularly men, seem to have this notion that women shouldn't have the right to access abortion care because it is their duty to carry children no matter how having that child may affect their life.
Professor Wendel Abel, head of The University of the West Indies' (UWI) Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, stated on Tuesday, October 10, 2018, at a Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange: "Unsafe abortion accounts for the third leading cause of maternal death. And why this is important is that maternal deaths and under-five deaths are sensitive measures of the quality of our healthcare."
According to the World Health Organization in their study titled 'Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems', Second Edition, more than 98 per cent of unsafe abortions occur within developing countries. This is because many of these countries having archaic laws that criminalise abortions make it impossible for persons to gain access outside of illegal and sometimes unsafe ways.
The study further states that a woman's likelihood of having an unintended pregnancy and seeking an induced abortion is about the same. However, legal restrictions, together with other barriers, mean that many women induce abortions themselves or seek abortion from unskilled providers. The legal status of abortion has no effect on a woman's need for an abortion, but it greatly affects her access to safe abortion.
Sections 72 and 73 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1863, states that women and their doctors can be charged with felonious assault for procuring or facilitating an abortion, and they can be imprisoned for life if they are found guilty. If you provide a woman with information on where she can get the procedure done, you could be charged with a misdemeanour and be imprisoned for up to three years.
There needs to be a repeal of the archaic laws that criminalise abortion, giving women the right to choose. If this is not possible, at least have clear guidelines under which women may be able to have access to safe abortions. The guidelines should be able to determine under what circumstances the procedure should be done, and register and monitor providers doing these procedures.
Additionally, these guidelines should take into consideration an unplanned pregnancy, whether the pregnancy is harmful to the mother's health, whether the pregnancy is the result of rape, and if the foetus might have a birth defect.