Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Activist knocks Church for anti-abortion stance

Published:Saturday | June 15, 2019 | 12:12 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

The debate over whether Jamaica should amend the Offences Against the Person Act to make abortions legal in the country continued this week, with one pro-life activist telling Parliament’s Human Resource and Social Development Committee that the Church should have no significant stake in influencing politics or legislation on the issue.

Claudja Williams slammed the Church, which has been among the main challengers to a change in the law.

She said it was unfortunate that some of the most outspoken stakeholders against abortion are men and extremely religious women and that by inviting the Church as a stakeholder in the issue, “the Government seems to have forgotten its fundamental responsibilities to the people of Jamaica”.

“The belief of the Church are not based on objective truths, and the Church does not represent the beliefs of all Jamaicans … . Essentially, the opinions of the Church should not be taken seriously when looking at the issue of abortion,” she said.

Williams was speaking as the committee continued hearing arguments on a motion brought by Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn to have abortion legalised in the island as she said many women had to turn to unsafe practices to terminate pregnancies, which opened the door to further dangers.

Williams said the fact that abortion is still illegal in Jamaica is an infringement of the guaranteed rights of all women and that the Government should do the right thing by legalising the practice.

She said that claims that life begins at conception were based on personal beliefs, thereby supporting her position that the Church was basing its arguments on “personal truths” and not “objective truths”.

“Our first consideration should be whether criminalising abortion infringes on the freedoms of Jamaicans, and to the extent that it does, it should be legalised,” said Williams.

Fellow pro-choice advocate Shakira Maxwell, representing Partnership for Women’s Health and Well-being, lamented that successive government administrations have not had the courage to legalise abortions despite several women dying from unsafe, back-door practices.

Maxwell said that even in cases where women do not die from these illegal and unsafe abortions, they risk gangrene, haemorrhaging, perforation, and laceration as a result.

Their challenge was, however, rebuffed by a Bible-toting Romain Stewart, who styled his position as “pro-both lives”, which he said meant being in support of both mother and child equally.

“Two wrongs do not make a right. Just as how rape and incest are always wrong, so it is with direct abortion. It is always wrong,” he said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com