By Peter Espeut
It seems like this Government is waging an all-out war against the Church on several fronts at the same time. The Ministry of Labour is introducing flexiweek legislation, which will remove the holiness from the Lord's Day. The prime minister is calling for a review of the legislation against buggery. The Government's family planning agency is calling for the distribution of condoms in schools.
And now on Tuesday in her contribution to the Sectoral Debate, the minister of youth has called for a review of the legislation against abortion. I find her argument offensive.
The minister of youth framed her argument in these terms:
Crime in Jamaica has got out of hand.
Many persons having children are themselves children with no parenting skills; too many have children without providing the care, love, nurturing and guidance those children need.
She noted that a US study found that there was a direct correlation between crime and unwanted children.
There has been a reported decline in crime since the 1990s in those states which legalised abortion in the 1970s.
The law which prohibits abortion in Jamaica is old, but we have been debating whether to change it for the past 38 years.
The minister's argument is that if we had changed our laws against abortion 38 years ago, there would be thousands fewer Jamaican youth today, and we would be having less crime today. All those unwanted Jamaican children would simply never have been born, and since there is a direct correlation between crime and unwanted children, voilą! Crime problem solved!
Her argument goes on:
Jamaica is in a financial crisis.
It costs the Government J$1.7 billion a year to fund the Child Development Agency (CDA).
Of that, more than $436 million is spent to operate eight state-run children's homes and places of safety at a cost of $676,000 per child per year. There are currently 334 children at these facilities.
To assist in the care of the 1,823 children in 48 privately operated children's homes and places of safety, the Government allocates $721 million per year as a subsidy.
The CDA provides financial assistance to wards of the State: 950 children in foster care, 1,119 on Supervision Orders, and 809 in the family reintegration programme.
Her argument must be that if abortion were legal in Jamaica, these children would not be born, and, therefore, would not be a cost to the State. If abortion were legal in Jamaica, look how much money would be saved. Voilą! Financial crisis solved!
In her speech, the minister is quoted as saying: "Abortion is still illegal in this country, and a woman's right to choose whether or not to keep her pregnancy is, in effect, exercised only by those who can afford a private doctor."
This statement is interesting for several reasons: first, it asserts that a woman has a "right to choose whether or not to keep her pregnancy". From where does this "right" come, Minister? Her pregnancy is a separate human being, with a different blood system (and often a different blood type), different brain and nervous system, whose right to life is protected by the Offences against the Person Act. Where does the "right" to take this human life come from, Minister?
Nowadays, counterfeit 'rights' are being manufactured left and right, but I did not expect this of the minister.
Second, her statement quoted above accuses private doctors in Jamaica of performing illegal abortions as long as the pregnant woman comes with money. What does the medical profession have to say about this? Are members in good standing with the Medical Association of Jamaica performing (illegal) abortions for the paying public?
In 2005, the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group was set up by Jamaica's health ministry to examine the impact of the country's abortion laws. The group found that most of the women seeking illegal abortions in Jamaica were "young, poor, unemployed and live in economically and socially deprived communities"; they could have added "black" too.
Making abortion legal in Jamaica is a plan to kill thousands of poor, black Jamaicans. That does not make me happy. Birth control was never a plan to kill black people, for with contraception, no human being comes into existence. Abortion is different.
I agree with the minister that it is time to "drill down and turn our attention to changing the mindset of persons who are still having children without the thought of how they will take care of them". Handing out condoms in school and allowing abortion-on-demand is not solving the problem, but giving in to it.
Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to email@example.com.