Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Anti-abortion law could hurt more poor women and girls - Hanna

Published:Thursday | April 16, 2015 | 10:19 AMJovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer

Youth and Culture Minister, Lisa Hanna, says it's time the decision is made to remove the State's "veto" power that interferes with women’s control over their bodies and make it unlawful for them to do abortion.

She first gave an opinion on abortion in 2013 when she argued that Jamaica needs to face the reality that many of the females having babies are children with no parenting skills.

Currently, the law makes abortion illegal, except in some cases of medical emergency.

And speaking Friday on The Gleaner Online's current affairs programme On The Record, Hanna suggested that the longer it takes to make abortion legal, more poor, unfortunate women and girls will suffer.

"The poor get mutilated and botched by clinics that are not satisfactory. They go into the underground market and buy tablets that really harm them for the rest of their lives. It really should be to the discretion of the woman in the same way that we give them access in the 1970s to a number of different situations," Hanna said.

According to Section 72 of the Offences Against the Person Act, anyone found guilty of having or facilitating an abortion could be sentenced to life in prison.

But Hanna says Jamaica needs to be progressive and get rid of the intrusive and disempowering law and settle a debate that has been raging for at least 40 years.

"Somehow we still hold on to these very old and archaic pieces of legislation that were not meant to further the democracy of women or have women take responsibility for their own bodies," said.

Hanna, one of four women in the Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet, says she wants discussions in Jamaica on issues such as abortion to be driven by data and not only emotions and Biblical injunctions.

She joins colleague parliamentarian, Dr. Dayton Campbell who last year, called for anti-abortion laws to be repealed and chastised religious conservatives for frustrating decades of efforts to settle the debate.

In a September 2014 Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, 69 per cent of the 1,208 Jamaicans surveyed or seven in ten people said Jamaica’s abortion law should not be changed.

Jamaica renewed efforts to address the abortion issue in 2008 after the European Union, among other international organisations and lobbyists promised funding.

According to Women on Waves, a pro abortion lobby group, 25 percent of the world's population lives in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws - mostly in Latin America, Africa and Asia.