JAMAICA: For an Abortion Law That Reaches the Poor

Published on Inter Press Service IPS, by Zadie Neufville, June 14, 2009.

When a Jamaican women’s group Sistren realised the voices of poor women were missing in a national debate on abortion rights, they boldly staged a play before parliamentarians reviewing a draft law that seeks to clarify when abortion can be deemed legal.

Called ‘Slice of Reality’, the performance was aimed to give “a voice to groups of women whose experiences may not otherwise be heard”, says Lana Finikin, Sistren’s executive director. It tells the stories of “poor women who are being robbed of the right to make decisions concerning their own bodies” she told IPS in an interview … 

… Opposition member of parliament Lisa Hanna who is on the joint parliamentary committee told IPS that in her rural north coast constituency of South Eastern St. Ann, women and girls who are desperate to end their pregnancy resort to all sorts of life threatening solutions.

A Slice of Reality portrays these and other stories of insane or other mentally challenged women and those without social support who are preyed on by abusive men, or girls who are forced into sexual relationships with gunmen in their communities.

Slice of Reality portrays like these and other stories of women without social support who are preyed on by abusive men, or girls who are forced into sexual relationships with gunmen in their communities.

In addition, there are teenager victims of incestuous relationships who are sworn to secrecy by their families, and women whose husbands refuse to permit them to access birth control methods.

Lobbying for support for women’s reproductive rights and (access to) abortion, DAWN states “it is a woman’s right to have all options available to her” so she can make an informed decision.

While the common law allows abortions under specified conditions, it “gives doctors the right over women’s lives since not all situations in which women become pregnant, may be strictly in line with the definition provided for under the law”, according to DAWN.

With the hearing almost completed, the parliamentary committee will soon make its recommendations.

“All information taken in these hearings will be taken into consideration. The chairman will make our report to parliament and the legislation will be redrafted,” says MP Hanna. She is optimistic that the committee will be able to table the bill in Jamaica’s lawmaking lower house of parliament by year end. (full text).

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