Laws must protect citizens
THE EDITOR, Sir:
As a citizen of Jamaica, and a black woman descended from people whose bodies were sold, bought and controlled by others, I write in support of the work of Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn and pro-choice activists in Jamaica.
Anti-choice lobbyists have heightened their activism by bringing in representatives of interest groups from the United States to dissuade, that is, pressure Mrs Cuthbert-Flynn to withdraw her motion to repeal sections 72-73 of the Offences Against the Person Act. This is imperialism masking itself as benevolence. The hypocrisy here is that anti-imperialist propaganda – that is, the false notion that abortion is a North American and European imposition – has historically been part of the activism of some of these same groups.
One of the persons invited to participate in anti-choice activism in Jamaica is Dr Alveda King, director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, who was recently the guest of Jamaica CAUSE and Missionaries of the Poor, and whose status as the niece of Dr Martin Luther King Jr has been widely publicised.
King’s references to racial equality and MLK’s “dream” in her statements to The Gleaner last week, imply that we must somehow conflate the goals of the US civil rights movement (which had its own share of gender oversights) with the agenda to deny women in a majority black country the right to safely make decisions about their reproductive health.
Throughout the world, denying women the right to terminate a pregnancy has merely led to them seeking unsafe alternatives. Furthermore, most of the people who have suffered the health repercussions of anti-abortion laws and inadequate reproductive health services (including in the US) have been black and other women of colour, who are more likely to be poor, with fewer resources to access safe abortions where it is illegal, or adequate childcare if they choose to have children.
Even in cases of incest and rape, Jamaican women are criminalised if they terminate a pregnancy by a 19th-century law written under British colonialism. Our visions of freedom must include ridding ourselves of laws and institutions that do damage to the same people they claim to be protecting.
We will never complete the process of decolonisation and achieve full racial and gender justice unless all black, and other people, have the right to reproductive autonomy.