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RJRGLEANER-Don Anderson Poll | 21% of Jamaicans back abortion on demand

Published:Sunday | March 17, 2019 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter

One in every five persons who support the legalisation of abortion in Jamaica believes that women should be allowed to terminate their pregnancy under any circumstances.

That is according to the findings of the latest RJRGLEANER-commissioned Don Anderson poll, which also confirmed that an overwhelming majority of Jamaicans remain opposed to the abolition of abortion.

The poll, which was conducted between February 15 and March 3, and in which 1,003 persons were interviewed, found that 75 per cent of respondents want the ban on abortion to remain in place and 25 per cent want it lifted.

The survey was done days after a joint select committee of Parliament began hearing submissions from members of the public on a motion moved by West Rural St Andrew Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn that seeks to end the prohibition on abortion in Jamaica.

Respected medical doctor Charles Royes, citing local and international experts, estimated, in his presentation before the committee, that between 6,000 and 22,000 abortions are performed in Jamaica every year and warned that those numbers could soar with “attendant consequences” if the procedure is legalised.

However, women’s-rights advocate Nadeen Spence believes that the poll findings are clear indicators that Jamaicans still do not have a clear understanding of the abortion debate and are simply going along with the position taken by the Church.

“There is a lot of stigma associated with abortion, and we haven’t done enough to educate people about what the true argument is,” Spence told The Sunday Gleaner during an interview.

“If the Church is against an issue, most people in Jamaica see that as an indication that they should be against it as well. I don’t think it comes from an understanding of the issues that are critical to an abortion,” she added.

Spence said that the central message that gets lost in the abortion debate is that women are terminating pregnancies, sometimes under unsafe conditions, despite the fact that it is prohibited under Jamaican law.

She argued, too, that “poor people” are most at risk of engaging in unsafe abortions.

“It is those people who cannot afford that $30,000 or $40,000 that have that problem,” said Spence, pointing to the range of fees charged for an abortion.

“So since they have already indicated that this is a choice they want to have, do they deserve the dignity of a safe abortion?” she posited.

Among the 25 per cent who believe that abortion should be legalised, the poll found that 44 per cent of respondents think the procedure should be available to women who were raped and victims of incest.

Twenty-four per cent say that abortion should be allowed on medical grounds while 21 per cent think it should be allowed under any circumstances.

Seven per cent of respondents who are in favour of legalising abortion say it should be done if the woman is financially unable to care for the child, while two per cent each said that an abortion should be allowed because of the woman’s right to choose where there is fear that she is unable to manage, or in cases where the pregnancy interferes with her job. One per cent believe it should be permitted in cases of unplanned pregnancies.