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Thou shalt not abort!

Oneil Madden

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Children are a gift from God; they are a reward from him. — Psalm 127:3 New Living Translation (NLT) 

It cannot go unnoticed that Member of Parliament (MP) and state minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn does not miss any opportunity to advance the/her agenda of getting Parliament to legalise abortion in Jamaica. In light of the recent announcement in Argentina of the right to abort, Cuthbert-Flynn opined that this historical achievement in Argentina is a gigantesque one for Latin American and the Caribbean countries who are still dragging their feet to pass such a law. She further underscored that Jamaica needs to know what is happening, and it is about time we tackle this issue, which has continued to resurface but has not yielded much fruit for decades.

One is left to believe that the primary role of this MP, now serving her second term, is to get this specific law amended. She is passionate about the matter and has expressed reasons for her position, citing that she had to get an abortion at age 19 because of health risks. She believes, just like with many other laws in Jamaica, that this one is archaic, and the country needs to move with urgency to get it updated. A progressive mindset, thus, is needed.

Undoubtedly, we are in 2021, and the issue definitely needs to be addressed. Former politicians, like Reverend Ronald Thwaites, have suggested that Parliament should take a conscience vote; however, other persons of authority, including doctors, have dismissed the idea completely about legalising abortion, while others have recommended a referendum. After all, why would a matter of this nature that concerns the people be decided upon by a handful of politicians?

Understandably, one of the reasons for the delay in many of our laws on controversial issues is the fact that our religious background plays a vital role in how we perceive certain ideas. But is abortion even a religious issue?

Most Christians (and people of other religious convictions) will reference the sixth commandment from the moral laws: “You must not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 NLT) Viewing the issue through this lens will certainly not allow for religious people to entertain any other thought. However, how much credibility do religious institutions have, if there are some leaders who agree to abortion on the basis of health complications or if a girl/woman has been raped?

Notwithstanding, strong arguments have been put forward that the matter of abortion has not been treated in scriptures — just like the issue of masturbation (if we were to talk Bible and sexuality). It is not treated in the Ten Commandments or anywhere in the Jewish scriptures. It was never referenced in the Sermon on the Mount or anywhere in the New Testament. There is no mention of it in the early creeds or in the early ecumenical councils. Thus, much of the debate over abortion is based on a misconception that it is a religious issue, and that the pro-life advocates are acting out of religious conviction.

It is not a theological matter either. Clergymen in the Roman Catholic faith have even suggested that the question of abortion is a matter of natural law, to be decided by natural reason. If we are to support this idea by natural law, this means we must turn to reason and science — the realm of enlightened religion. But this is something that most religious people want to avoid. Who, then, are the relevant experts here? Philosophers, neurobiologists, embryologists, etc?

On the other hand, theologians, Bible scholars, and clergymen do have reasons to take a pro-life, as opposed to a pro-choice stance. Let us consider the message of God to Jeremiah in chapter 1:5 NLT of his book: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” This idea suggests that God has a purpose for every human being even before his/her conception. Additionally, the scripture quoted above in Psalm 127 reinforces the idea of why many people support pro-life. Abortion means destroying God's gift and reward to us. Can you imagine if all the potential mothers who were told or even persuaded to abort their child/ren did so? Where would you be today? Some of the most influential people in society today would not have been here.

We live in an era in which we talk about feminism and women empowerment, and that a woman should have the right to do with her body as she pleases. But we know that our actions come with consequences. We want to promote abortion, but can the women who abort deal with the consequences — health, emotional, psychological, spiritual? Many pastors, who are also counselling psychologists, will tell you that it is one of the most difficult issues that they have to deal with in counselling sessions. It has a lifelong impact.

Abortion will also affect our population. Fewer people would be procreating, and this would contribute to an acceleration in population aging. So, let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Thou shalt not abort! 

Oneil Madden is a PhD candidate in didactics and linguistics at the Université Clermont Auvergne, France, and president of the Association of Jamaican Nationals in France (JAMINFRANCE). Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or oneil.madden@uca.fr.