Sun | Jan 24, 2021

Letter of the Day | Stop demonisation of pro-choice movement

Published:Tuesday | January 12, 2021 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The article published on January 8 in The Gleaner, ‘Tackle Abortion Issue Now – Cuthbert Flynn Wants Jamaicans To Think More Progressive Following Argentina’s Landmark Ruling’, once again highlights a major challenge I have found when some professionals discuss the pro-choice movement.

Dr Thomas’ comments about the need for a referendum on abortion laws exposes the hypocrisy of citing democracy when discussing protecting minority rights. Ironically, our motto, “Out of many, one people,” addresses this problem. The responsibility of protecting society’s minority groups lies solely on our democratically elected government. Therefore, Minister Juliet Cuthbert Flynn’s call for Parliament to make a conscience vote is necessary in order to avoid another political rigmarole.

Throughout our history as one people, we have seen countless laws and policies that may disenfranchise a vulnerable community simply because of the “will of the people”. Who should be the person to protect our rights if not our democratically elected government?

How can we ensure that women who are affected by these laws are heard over the clamour of religious groups? When will we stop pushing religious views and beliefs on laws that affect all Jamaicans? Our legislation needs to celebrate our country’s diversity while appreciating the plurality of our nation. Thus, demonising the state minister and her office is a serious issue. Minister Cuthbert Flynn is simply carrying out her assigned responsibilities with maternal health and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

Within Latin America and the Caribbean, women accessing unsafe abortions is a major concern. Making abortion illegal increases the likelihood of botched abortions and forces women to embark on dangerous endeavours such as overconsuming oral contraception or swallowing “soda and rusty nails” to abort pregnancies. In Jamaica, these actions are direct threats to maternal health as abortions will take place regardless of the laws present.

As a predominantly conservative country, Argentina has set a good example for more countries to follow. We must recognise that abortion laws are not foreign to the Caribbean as Barbados, Cuba, and Guyana have already implemented these strategies to provide access to safe abortions.

With that said, the push by religious groups to silence conversations and individuals, including elected representatives who support the pro-choice movement, is a threat to our democracy. Let’s leave religion out of government.

KAMANI LEWIS