More respondents opposed to changing abortion law

More respondents opposed to changing abortion law

Thursday, August 13, 2020

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More Jamaicans believe that the country's abortion law should not be changed than those who say legislators need to make amendments, two recent surveys conducted by pollster Bill Johnson have found.

The polls, commissioned by the Jamaica Observer, were conducted March 12-15, 2020 and July 9-12, 2020 among 1,200 voting-age Jamaicans islandwide. Both polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent. The March poll was not previously published due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Johnson reported that when his researchers asked whether or not the law should be changed “to make it easier for a woman to have a legal abortion in the event of rape, or incest, or if her life is in danger?” 59 per cent of respondents in the July poll said no, while 35 per cent said yes. In the March poll the numbers were 54 per cent no and 40 per cent yes.

Jamaica has long struggled with the debate on abortion and with very strong views against the act in the religious community; a parliamentary committee reviewing sexual offences legislation recommended, in December 2018, that abortion and other issues of “broad public divide” could be put to a referendum.

Last November, a parliamentary committee reviewing a private member's motion to legalise abortions decided to extend deliberations by another two months to allow for additional submissions from the public.

The motion was tabled by St Andrew West Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn and calls for Parliament to consider the recommendations of the Abortion Policy Group, which, in its final draft report to then Health Minister Horace Dalley in February 2007, noted that one of the difficulties in countries like Jamaica, with restrictive and punitive laws, is obtaining accurate statistics as to the prevalence of abortion and its complications because of a tendency to conceal facts and veil intentions which could be considered illegal.

It recommended, among other things, that the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Person Act should be repealed and replaced with a Termination of Pregnancy Act. It also proposed that specific centres be developed, in each health region, to provide therapeutic abortions, where abortion of pregnancies up to 12 weeks' gestation can be performed in registered facilities by an authorised medical practitioner in consultation with the woman.

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