Trinidad and Tobago Draft Constitution Bans Abortions, Battle Coming

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Trinidad and Tobago Draft Constitution Bans Abortions, Battle Coming Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 7
, 2006

Port of Spain, Trinidad ( — A newly proposed national constitution for the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago would prohibit abortions and respect the right to life of people beginning at conception. The constitution would reflect current law that bans most abortions but pro-abortion groups are unhappy with the proposal.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning proposed the draft constitution during a recent meeting of the nation’s parliament and one clause in it enshrines the right to life.

Clause 5(2) states: “Everyone shall have the right to have his life respected and this right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception.”

Since 2000, abortion advocates, led by the group Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity (ASPIRE), have been leading a campaign to legalize abortion. With the help of the International Planned Parenthood Federation they attempted to pass a bill in 2004, but the government opposed it.

ASPIRE chairman Lynette Seebaran-Suite told the island newspaper Newsday that adopting the pro-life constitution would put Trinidad and Tobago out of step with other nations in the Caribbean.

ASPIRE vice-chairman Joanna Bharose claimed the constitution would put the nation at odds with international conventions and documents even though many other countries have pro-life laws and the UN has not officially endorsed abortion.

The group also says that the constitution goes against reality on the islands. Even though abortion is prohibited, they estimate 20,000 abortions occur annually as the nation’s laws are rarely enforced.

However, a spokesman for the Catholic Church told Newsday that it welcomed the proposed constitution.

“In light of this provision in the draft Constitution, it appears that the intention is to preserve the position in our laws," the representative said.

The unnamed official also questioned the number of abortions ASPIRE claims are done each year. He said a poll conducted by Prof Ramesh Deosaran shows most Trinidad and Tobago citizens are pro-life.

Dr. Godfrey Rajkumar also told Newsday that the number is not likely accurate since hospitals there report spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) simply as "abortions."

When ASPIRE proposed the abortion bill in 2004, Father Tim Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, came to the island nation to oppose it.

The bill would allow non-physicians to perform abortions, as well as allow abortion to be performed anywhere the abortionist sets up a clinic. It would have allowed abortion on demand through the 14th week of pregnancy.

Brian Clowes of Human Life International previously told "The people certainly don’t want abortion in T&T."

"We have had marches of thousands of people there. The pro-abortionists do not march or demonstrate, because their only supporters are the rich," he said. "They do not debate us, because they know they will lose every time."

In contrast, pro-life ministries such as the lay Catholic Emmanuel community are active in supporting women in crisis pregnancies.

The Archdiocesan home called "Mary Care" has taken care of some two hundred women in crisis pregnancies since 1987. Emmanuel members have even opened their own homes to young women with children who are in crisis.

Related Sites:
Human Life International –