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PNP Women’s Movement supports changes to abortion law

KINGSTON, JamaicaThe People’s National Party (PNP) Women’s Movement 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, yesterday congratulated Cuthbert on bringing the motion to the House of Representatives, and Opposition MP Michael Stewart for seconding it.

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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 does not preempt abortions

He said also that liberal abortion laws do not necessarily lead to an explosion of 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 sometime, 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 in 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 yesterday’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 back to the House of Representatives on Cuthbert’s controversial motion

— Balford Henry

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