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Clueless & cruel - Gender specialist disheartened by 75 per cent rejection of abortion on demand in latest poll

Published:Friday | May 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

Gender advocate Nadeen Spence is disappointed with the latest findings from a Gleaner-commission poll by Johnson Survey Research Limited, which shows that the majority of Jamaicans do not believe that the law governing abortions should be changed to allow women to make the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

According to Spence, the results signal that the perspectives on abortion have not progressed much over the years, and women are, for the most part, still limited in making reproductive decisions.

"Having a child is a very personal journey for a woman, so I don't think that there is any need for any nation, or any other body, to impose their own views on whether or not she should continue her pregnancy," Spence told The Sunday Gleaner.

"A woman should be able to have an abortion in any situation. Whether she can take care of the child or not should be up to her," Spence added.

Currently, a woman is able to have an abortion in Jamaica if the foetus poses a risk to her life, and while the recent survey shows that the public is in support of this exemption being extended to those who have been raped or those who got pregnant through incest, the majority, 62 per cent, are against legalising abortion for those who got pregnant because of a contraceptive failure.

But Spence says that the position of most respondents is helping to put the lives of countless women at risk as they chose unsavoury options to terminate a pregnancy.

"In Jamaica, so much of what pertains for abortion happens on the black market, if you want to call it that," she lamented.

"Women cannot get access to a safe abortion that is legal and acceptable, so women are putting their lives at risk," said the gender advocate.

The survey, conducted between April 27 and 29, involved 1,000 Jamaicans between the age of 15 and 49, with 82 per cent of the respondents identifying as religious even though not everyone in that group attends church, and Spence is adamant that religious dogma had a part in the responses.

"There is need for more information or greater dialogue around the issue of abortion because a lot of it is in the context of the Church and Christianity and people believing that if you abort a child, then you have committed murder.

"You don't get a lot of informed perspectives from the typical woman or man about how this thing can be examined, and the way in which it can be seen, and the fact that people have different perspectives on abortion," said Spence.

"There are some women, like me, who figure that whenever, however a woman chooses to have an abortion, it's her right.

"It is a matter of personal choice and people understanding that even though I might not agree with your personal choice, I shouldn't legislate it. I think it has a lot to do with also advancing our democracy and the arguments we put forward as it relates to personal freedom.

"It has to be phrased outside of the hysteria of religion that says it's murder and God doesn't like it. What if I'm not religious, or what if I don't feel convicted towards to Christianity in that way or any religion?" added Spence.

The Johnson Survey on 'A Woman's Right to Choose' was co-sponsored by The Gleaner, the Ministry of Health, and the National Health Fund.