Cuthbert Flynn pleased as Hanna places abortion back in House spotlight
Health and Wellness State Minister Juliet Cuthbert Flynn is happy that opposition Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna has joined her call for parliamentary action to amend the country’s abortion law even as debate on the contentious issue intensifies on the global stage.
On Tuesday, Hanna – a former youth minister who had called for a review of the law during her Sectoral Debate presentation in June 2013 – tabled a motion in the House, restating her support for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body.
Currently, the law makes abortion illegal, except in some cases of medical emergency. According to Section 72 of the Offences Against the Person Act, anyone found guilty of having or facilitating an abortion could be sentenced to life in prison, with or without hard labour.
Hanna and Cuthbert Flynn have reasoned that the denial of safe and legal options to carry out abortions have turned many women to the black market, often putting their own lives and health at risk.
“We spoke before her tabling that motion and I support her,” Cuthbert Flynn told The Gleaner on Wednesday at the Yute Expression Launch and Awards Ceremony held at Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew.
“I brought the motion to Parliament over two years ago. We had a Joint Select Committee on it. There was a review done. There were some recommendations given to be taken back to the Parliament and debated and, of course, we had an election and so Parliament dissolved,” she continued. “As the state minister now, I’m not able to bring that motion back in or to call for it, and so it would have to be someone else in the Parliament, and so I’m very happy that Member Lisa Hanna was able to bring that to the fore once again for us to debate it.
“It’s been debated in the United States now – very contentious – and I think it’s important for us to actually deal with our situation here in Jamaica,” Cuthbert Flynn added, noting the current uproar in the North American country over a leaked Supreme Court draft ruling threatening to reverse the ban on abortions in nearly half of US states.
Two years ago, a report by the Parliament’s Human Resources and Social Development Committee on the matter was also tabled by the now-retired Ronald Thwaites, but fell off the order paper.
Earlier this week, the body of newborn was found in trash along Temple Lane in downtown Kingston, causing many Jamaicans to ponder whether there was a connection with the current abortion restriction.
The news shocked Cuthbert Flynn, who noted that postpartum depression is a serious issue which many mothers suffer silently with.
“You never know what’s happening with mothers. It was quite disturbing for me the entire day. I just felt a heaviness the entire day and I think a lot of Jamaicans felt the same. I think if more mothers can know that they can access certain things, then maybe we won’t have these incidents happening,” she said.
The discovery also tugged at the heartstrings of Lovette Byfield, principal director of the National Family Planning Board.
“It’s really an unfortunate situation from many angles, because if you consider the mother who would have carried that child to full nine months, you wonder where she could have been directed to make that decision to hand the child over for adoption because that is a real option,” Byfield told The Gleaner. as she called for more support for women, especially those of lower socio-economic standing.
At Wednesday’s event, the panellists, including Cuthbert Flynn and Byfield, expressed concerns about the adolescent pregnancy rate in Jamaica.
“In 2018, the World Bank estimated that the adolescent birth rate in Jamaica was declining and is now 51 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19. However, Jamaica is still above the global adolescent pregnancy rate, which is estimated at 46 births per 1,000 girls,” Cuthbert Flynn said.
She also expressed a concern about persons keeping one faithful partner for stability and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.