Jamaica Government Continues Hearings on Measure to Legalize Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Jamaica Government Continues Hearings on Measure to Legalize Abortions

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
November 17, 2008

Kingston, Jamaica (LifeNews.com) — The Jamaica governmental committee considering the legalization of abortion heard from advocates on both sides of the issue last week during a public forum. Pro-life advocates presented tens of thousands of signatures from residents opposed to a measure allowing abortions.

The government is considering a proposal to legalize abortions for any
reason up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Dr. Doreen Brady-West, chair of the Coalition for the Defence of Life gave a compelling presentation that included signatures of 87,000 Jamaicans opposed to legalizing abortion.

She also showed a graphic video that depicted several abortion procedures, which few of the committee members could watch without averting their eyes.

Health Minister and Committee Chair Rudyard "Ruddy" Spencer left the chamber during the video "I can’t even question you on the film," he told Brady-West later. "I am a weakling when it comes to certain things."

Brady-West counseled the committee to examine all the related issues, and to improve antenatal care and take stronger measures against perpetrators of sexual crimes, instead of embracing abortion.

Proponents of legalizing abortion in Jamaica have repeatedly cited a need for the practice to address the problem of a high female mortality rate, which they ascribe to unsafe and illegal abortions. Dr. Wayne West, of the Coalition for the Defence of Life, reviewed the data and asked for a specific link to support this theory.

"From the period 2001 to 2007 there were three maternal deaths as a result of abortion out of more than 300 maternal deaths," said West. "Where is the evidence? I am still asking that question."

Susan Folks Goldson, an attorney with the Coalition of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn, expressed concern about the legislative changes proposed by the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group.

"We have recommendations as to why we should change the law, but the
approach being taken gives me cause for concern," said Goldson. "Abortion can be done up to 22 weeks on demand and over 22 weeks may be terminated for a variety of reasons. That is too vague for my liking."

Specifically, Goldson mentioned provisions that an abortion could be procured if the child was physically or mentally abnormal.

"What is physically handicapped, is that Down’s Syndrome? What about the rights of the child?" asked Goldson. "Jamaica would be better served by emphasizing the sanctity and the preservation of life. If we are going to err let us err on the side of the preservation of life."

Currently, Jamaican law considers all abortions to be unlawful, but the law is seldom enforced.

In May, the national nurses association said the government’s time and money would be better spent promoting better health care than promoting abortions.

Members of the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica (NAJ) say that’s wrongheaded and NAJ president Edith Allwood-Anderson says her group will actively oppose any attempt by Parliament to legalize abortion.

"Any attempt by any government to make abortion widely available will be met by extensive agitation and opposition from us (members of the NAJ)," she said.

"Abortion leads to psychological, self-esteem and medical problems and a change in personality. It will cost you more to treat these women in the long run. There are also others who will never get pregnant again," the nurse added.

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