Jamaica’s smouldering abortion debate is once again threatening to burst into a raging fire, with the usual combatants staking out their pro-choice and pro-life positions.
This latest installment of the on-again, off-again debate sparked to life after Argentina’s Senate voted in December 2020 to legalise abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy.
This development excited government minister Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn who brought a motion to parliament in 2018 urging lawmakers to repeal existing laws criminalizing abortion. MP Cuthbert-Flynn could hardly contain her excitement as she encouraged Jamaican lawmakers to follow Argentina’s lead.
Mrs. Cuthbert-Flynn’s announcement drew the ire of members of the Christian community, with one bishop calling on the prime minister to “rein in” the minister.
Needless to say, the imagery of a man calling on the prime minister, a man, to ”rein in” a woman, did not find favour with feminists and abortion activists!
The call to “rein in” the goodly lady didn’t sit well with me either but my objection was simply because the call ran counter to democratic norms.
Anyhow, by this time the train had left the station and was careening down the track, with both sides preparing to battle it out in traditional and social media and the court of public opinion.
The Church and other pro-life proponents emphasized that life began at conception and was sacred. Therefore the deliberate termination of a pregnancy was, by definition, murder.
The pro-choice crowd on the other hand, stressed a woman’s right to control what happens to her body, men wanting to control women’s bodies, poor women’s inability to access safe abortions and botched abortions.
They had no time to debate when life begins and even less time to discuss the sanctity of life!
The pro-life camp got a boost when a think-tank reported that it made economic sense to legalise abortion and to allow minors to have abortions without requiring parental permission. They also called for lawmakers to decide the matter by casting secret ballots.
After listening to both sides of the abortion divide, I have concluded supporters of abortion fall into at least four (4) categories, feminists, the sexually permissive, the economically challenged and victims of rape or incest.
These women’s only concern is to be freed from man’s dominance. Their pro-choice stance is informed by the belief that men must not tell women what to do with their bodies.
The sexually permissive
This demographic is dismissive of the concept that actions have consequences. They come across as amoral. To them, having an abortion is just a way to avoid living with the consequences of their actions. The concept of responsible sexual behaviour is totally lost on them
The economically challenge
Most women in this category already have multiple children they are struggling to take care of without the help of a father. When she gets pregnant again, she is genuinely concerned about her ability to care for another child and considers an abortion as a way to prevent a child coming into the world to suffer.
Victims of rape and incest
Pregnant victims of rape and incest find themselves in a position not of their own making. After being criminally violated, they find themselves carrying the offspring of their violator and faced with the dilemma of carrying the child to term or terminating the pregnancy.
This group poses the greatest challenge to pro-lifers opposing abortion no matter the antecedents of the pregnancy.
The issues in the abortion debate are multifaceted and complex involving matters of traditional male dominance, irresponsible sexual behaviour (especially by some men), criminal, predatory behaviour (again by men) and failure of our society and the justice system to provide support and justice for victims of sexual violence.
The issue of whether to terminate a pregnancy is addressing the end product of a series of actions or inactions. The solution must address the cultural, social and criminal behaviours causing the problem of ‘unwanted’ pregnancies.
Unfortunately, voices calling for the causes to be addressed are washed away by the tidal waves of the pro-choice tsunami.