Women's Movement joins call for repealing abortion laws

Women's Movement joins call for repealing abortion laws

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, July 20, 2019

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THE People's National Party Women's Movement (PNPWM) is supporting the motion from Government back-bencher Juliet Cuthbert to remove the legal barriers to women having abortions.

President of the PNPWM, Jennifer Edwards on Wednesday congratulated Cuthbert on bringing the motion to the House of Representatives, and Opposition Member of Parliament Michael Stewart for seconding it.

She told the House's Human Resources and Development Committee, which is reviewing the motion, that already 74 countries — representing 60 per cent of the world's population — permit abortions without any restrictions.

She added that during the past 20 years, more than 30 countries have liberalised their abortion laws and have expanded the grounds on which it can take place.

“Numerous surveys have shown that legal restrictions on abortions do not result in fewer abortions. Instead, they increase the chances that women will seek abortion services in unsafe conditions, with the attendant risks to their lives and their health,” she said.

Edwards' arguments were also supported by Jamaican sociologist Dr Fredrick Nunes, who has done work on abortion.

Responding to questions from minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge, Nunes said that the medical community recognises that abortion laws have a pernicious effect and not pre-empt abortions.

He said also that liberal abortion laws do not necessarily lead to an explosion in abortions, but that there is a phenomenon that suggests that because of the stigma attached to abortions and the under-reporting associated with it, there is an explosion in the numbers but not an explosion in abortions.

He admitted that the figures level off after some time, and noted that, for example, the Netherlands, which he noted has the most liberal abortion laws, has the lowest rate of abortion in the world, largely because of an enormous effort in terms of contraceptive behaviour and public education.

Nunes fully supported the idea that the physical and emotional health of women were being affected by the restrictive and antiquated nature of the abortion laws.

He said a main part of the emotional stress of women is the secrecy, the oppression, the suppression, and the notion that they are alone in their effort to have an abortion — which is not the case.

“And clearly, by making it legal and setting regulatory standards for the training of persons providing it, there is no question that the health [of the woman] would be remarkably improved,” Nunes added.

Other presenters at Wednesday's meeting of the committee at Gordon House included: Dr Carolyn Cooper, Yvonne McCalla Sobers, and Joan French.

The committee is expected to meet again next Wednesday, as it gets ready to report to the House of Representatives on Cuthbert's controversial motion.

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