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Parental consent - 40% of Jamaicans say parents must approve abortion by teenagers

Published:Monday | May 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Rosalee Gage-Grey
Diahann Gordon Harrison

(The Johnson Survey Research Limited poll on ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose’was sponsored by The Gleaner, the Ministry of Health and the National Health Fund.)

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has joined the 40 per cent of Jamaicans who believe that a parent must give consent if a 16- or 17-year-old girl needs to have an abortion.

The all-island poll conducted by Johnson Survey Research Limited titled 'A Woman's Right to Choose', addressed a number of issues, which included whether or not a 16- or 17-year-old girl who becomes pregnant should have the consent of a parent if she wished to undergo an abortion. This is in light of the fact that the age of consent to have sex is 16, but a person legally becomes an adult at 18.

The survey found that 40 per cent of respondents strongly agreed that a parent must give consent, 34 per cent agreed, 14 per cent disagreed and 6 per cent strongly disagreed.

In sharing her opinion on the issue, Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said that the survey has highlighted how inconsistencies in the law presented major challenges.

"My position is that they should have parental consent to access an abortion, despite the age of consent being 16 years. At this point, general abortion remains illegal in Jamaica," said Gordon Harrison. "If these girls, who are still children under the law, seek to access such service without the guidance of a responsible parent or guardian, it could lead to problems. The child would be negotiating as a minor," she stated.

"The age of consent conflicts with a child's ability to make serious decisions that could be life-changing or have a serious impact on her health," added Gordon Harrison.

Rosalee Gage-Grey, head of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), indicated that the agency would always obey the law, which states that abortion is illegal. She said that recent statistics also pointed to the need for more age-appropriate sex education.

"We follow what the law says currently, but we believe that children should be provided with age-appropriate information so that they can make informed choices.

"We believe also that, even though the age of consent for sex is 16, it is not a licence to go and have sex; it's just that you will not be prosecuted. But even some people in their 20s are not mature enough to navigate sexual relationships," said Gage-Grey.

The latest poll was conducted between April 27 and 29 islandwide, among 1,000 Jamaicans between the ages of 15 and 49, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

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