Legalising abortion won’t end ‘back alley’ procedures

Dear Editor,

I write in response to an online Jamaica Observer, article published on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 entitled ‘Cuthbert-Flynn seeks repeal of abortion legislation’.

Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn presented a motion in the House of Representatives to have abortion made legal. She cited the untimely death of one of her constituents due to complications from a botched abortion as a primary motivation for her motion.

While the tragedy of this young woman’s death is profound, Cuthbert-Flynn’s arguments to legalise abortion are not.

First, the legality of an industry never precludes its illegal alternative. Even if abortion were to be legalised, there would still be illegal “back alley” abortions taking place.

Entire industries are built on stolen phones and cars although both goods are traded legally.

Second, the same medical practitioners who perform these illegal abortions will be the same ones who will perform legal ones. Making abortion legal will not magically improve the skill set of the person who performed the botched abortion on Cuthbert-Flynn’s constituent.

Third, and in connection to my second point, the legal status of a physical activity has no bearing on the inherent physical dangers imposed by that activity. The process of abortion is highly intricate, painful and invasive. Even the most careful and dexterous experts can easily succumb to complications that result in internal bleeding or infertility. The term “safe abortion” is an oxymoron in many cases for the mother, and in all cases for the unborn child.

There are myriad alternative short-term and long-term responses that could have been considered to the morbid tale of that young woman. In the short term, more resources can be directed to pregnancy resource centres that provide health care and therapy for the mother, as well as charity drives to provide material goods to offset the costs of having a newborn baby. In the long-term, Parliament could review laws surrounding the adoption process to make it less cumbersome, so that pregnant women will have more accessible options of putting their children up for adoption upon birth. As a very long-term project, the Government should invest in shaping cultural values and attitudes towards sex, marriage, family formation and structure, especially the dignity and value of human life, motherhood and male responsibility in respecting women and rearing children.

The article’s bemoaning the “opposition from a powerful conservative church community” belies the awareness and common sense of the average Jamaican citizen. Opposition to abortion is neither dependent on attending church nor on being conservative. It’s about prioritising the needs of the pregnant woman over the advancement of a political agenda. It’s about being practical and strategic in policymaking. And it’s about not resorting to slinging a hammer of abortion because every unplanned pregnancy looks like a nail.

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