Sun | Apr 11, 2021

Grant minors access to abortions without parental consent – CAPRI

Published:Friday | February 5, 2021 | 12:07 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

There is a call for adolescents to have improved access to reproductive health services, including abortions, without parental consent.

This is one of three key recommendations made by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) in its Coming to Terms: The Social Costs of Unequal Access to Safe Abortions report, which is co-funded by the European Union.

The report also suggested that parliamentarians be allowed to cast secret votes in determining the way forward for Jamaica as some could shy away from a particular position on the highly polarising issue for fear of backlash.

It has also pitched the idea for public funding for pregnancy termination services.

In 2018, St Andrew West Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn tabled a parliamentary motion on the issue, calling for the State to make safe abortions available to Jamaican women.

Complications from unsafe abortions is the third leading cause of maternal death in the island.

The CAPRI report underscored that the recommendations were made acknowledging the “raft of pre-existing, sustained, and repeated calls for improving women’s access to contraception, and empowering women to exercise their autonomy to use contraception, and to not have sex against their will”, among other considerations.

In a web forum yesterday, Dr Leanne Levers, CAPRI’s director of advocacy, presented the main findings of the research, noting that up to 22,000 unsafe abortions take place in the island each year.

“Poorer Jamaican women and their unwanted children suffer a range of complications and consequences as a result of denial of access to safe abortions, including loss of access to education, poorer mental health and in some cases, death,” Levers explained.

In 2019, roughly 13 per cent of all births occurred to teenage mothers, and the number of adolescent pregnancies terminated each year in Jamaica could be as high as 5,000.

RANGE OF BENEFITS

“Given that up to 43 per cent of the complications in early pregnancy may be due to attempted termination of pregnancy, the cost to Jamaican public health system is large,” read a section of the report.

CAPRI posited that introducing legal and safe abortions has a range of benefits, such as increased access to education, greater human capital and crime reduction.

During the panel discussion, Father Sean Major-Campbell affirmed support for safe access to abortions and called on legislators to do their work and “be the first defenders of human rights for the people of Jamaica”.

He found support in senior medical officer at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Dr Garth McDonald, who shared that when some of the life-threatening complications arise, they place a “significant burden on an already burdened health system”.

“Women should be given the opportunity to have that choice and the State should provide for women who are unable to afford and access such safe abortions, so that we don’t find women mutilating themselves and their unborn foetuses ... ,” the medical doctor added.

Meanwhile, Cuthbert-Flynn, the junior health minister, said abortion is a serious public health matter and creating safe access could reduce the country’s maternal mortality rate.

“The morality issue, I think, is the main reason why we are still here. I think the Church has played a role in that and I think that for that reason, we have not been able to move from as far back as 1975 … ,” she said, lamenting the slow progress Jamaica was making to legalise abortions.

The MP also suggested that a more comprehensive approach be taken towards sex education in schools, imparting more than lessons of abstinence.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com