Wed | Oct 20, 2021

NOT OF GOD - JCHS slams CAPRI for recommendation on abortion; think tank stands firm, rejects atheist label

Published:Saturday | February 6, 2021 | 1:18 AM

Dr Wayne 
Dr Wayne West.

The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society has come out swinging against a recommendation by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) for minors to have access to abortions without parental consent. This was one of three recommendations...

The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society has come out swinging against a recommendation by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) for minors to have access to abortions without parental consent.

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

In its latest study, the public policy think tank also suggested that lawmakers be allowed to cast secret votes on the highly controversial issue of abortion, noting that many could shy away from a particular position for fear of backlash.

The third proposal is for public funding for pregnancy termination services.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Wayne West, chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, said the concept of teens having abortions without their parents’ consent was “just ridiculous”.

West described as “nonsense” the suggestions made by the not-for-profit group.

“With respect to abortion, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society is pro-life, unlike the atheist world view where people like CAPRI are coming from – the universe made itself from nothing and other such silly considerations – we hold the view that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and human beings have value because they are made in the image of God.”

The coalition chairman said that his group believes that the best way to organise a society was the method prescribed by the “biblical world view – man and a woman committed to each other in marriage to raise their children according to the fear of God”.

He said good science supported that biblical world view that countries did better when they have stable families.

“CAPRI is along the lines of the atheists and you are going to hear more of that nonsense from them,” he told The Gleaner.

West also rejected the recommendation that parliamentarians should have a secret vote on whether to legalise abortion.

“It is the people of Jamaica who must decide which world view must be the basis for their law,” he said.

CAPRI’s Director of Research Dr Diana Thorburn defended the study, declaring that all the recommendations were evidenced-based in terms of what the data suggested.

She said that CAPRI did not have a world view, but was informed by the evidence carried out through research.

Thorburn said that the majority of persons in CAPRI were Christian as opposed to being atheist.

“I think maybe only one person might consider themselves atheist. I don’t even know if they would use that moniker,” she said.

She said CAPRI has pro-life people in its team “and we are all comfortable with the report and the research and findings because they are informed by empirical evidence”. She contended that the overwhelming conclusion of the research was that women would get an abortion anyway “and if it is illegal, women are going to get unsafe abortions”.

“We are non-partisan, non-ideological, non-religion. We go with what the evidence says and we don’t have an ideology that we wish to put forward on anybody except to say make decisions based on evidence,” Thorburn told The Gleaner.

Acknowledging that its recommendation for minors to have access to abortion without parental consent would generate controversy, the CAPRI research director pointed out that Jamaica had a high rate of child sexual abuse and forced sex of children and adolescents.

She said some data showed that more than 95 per cent of children who had been assaulted and raped suffered these sexual abuses at home and that they knew the people who did it.

Thorburn argued that a girl in her early teens who had been raped by her stepfather and become pregnant would find it challenging to seek permission from her parents to carry out an abortion.

Further, she said that the mother might know of the abuse, but because she was financially dependent on her partner, felt she had no choice but to accept it.

“Her (the child) going to them for consent is not going to help that child. However, if termination of pregnancy is offered in the public health system and she doesn’t require consent when she appears at the clinic and the doctor recognises that this 14-year-old is pregnant and she has been raped, she is now in a safe place where she can get the help she needs because no 14-year-old is going to go to the police alone and go back home again,” Thorburn argued.

“We are not saying that all minors must go straight to a clinic and get an abortion without their parents’ consent. We are saying it should not be a requirement.”

On the issue of secret vote by parliamentarians, Thorburn said that there were a few issues in which a recommendation for such a vote would be appropriate. One such case is abortion and the other two are the death penalty and assisted reproductive technology.