A view from the outside: Give women most of the say on abortion
The church leaders from various denominations marched to Parliament on Wednesday to support their members who appeared before Parliament to put forward arguments against the legalisation of abortion.
With Karyl Walker
Abortion, abortion got to have caution – Black Uhuru
The issue of abortion has been a heated one, not only in Jamaica, but in many of the world’s jurisdictions.
Now Jamaica must do serious introspection and craft legislation that will reveal to the world the country’s official position on the issue. The age old contention has again come to the fore after Member of Parliament for West Rural St Andrew, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn tabled a private member’s motion in Parliament for abortion to be made legal in April last year.
Cuthbert-Flynn argued that the country’s legislators had a moral obligation to allow Jamaican women the freedom to make their own decision on the matter.
Now the lawmakers are perusing the motion and have called a multi-denominational group to voice their views on the matter. The church will have none of it, describing abortion as an act of murder and said if legislation is passed, the country would be in effect legitimising murder.
On the other hand, pro-abortion activists argue that women should have the right to choose if they want to carry the fetus to full term and bear a child.
One of the most vocal of the church community is Father Richard Ho Lung, a catholic priest who has taken a vow of celibacy. Ho Lung has opted not to have sexual relations as is the dictates of the priesthood under the rules of his particular church organisation. The question must be asked of Ho Lung, however, how can one who has consciously taken a decision not to procreate be so loud and outspoken on the issue of abortion?
Has not Ho Lung committed religious abortion by not taking unto himself a woman and following the dictates of the book he so loves to quote (the Bible) and be fruitful and multiply?
In my view, Ho Lung’s stance holds no water and maybe he should take several steps back and allow a married man of the cloth who has sired children to argue that case. Ho Lung should perhaps put more energy into other issues such as the multiple cases of sexual abuse of minor boys by Catholic priests in Europe, The United States, South America, The Caribbean and other regions on the planet. In my view, those despicable acts of predation are worse than abortion. The church cannot be selective about what they choose to condemn as ‘sin’.
Strangely enough, the Rastafari community is known to ‘fire bun’ the church and most often the Pope, who is head of the Catholic church, but on the abortion issue they see eye to eye with the Catholics. It is a sin and must not be allowed to take place on Jah Jah land.
Abortion has long been publicly frowned upon in Jamaican culture, but it has also long been practiced by women from all sectors of society in the secrecy of the offices of some doctors who provide the service which is illegal on the country’s law books.
In some sectors of society, women who take the decision to abort are called all kinds of derogatory names and are frowned upon. Dancehall songs have even been made degrading women who ‘dash weh belly’.
Pro-abortionists argue that a woman who is the victim of rape must be able to decide if she wants to carry that child. Who are we to tell that woman that she must be forever reminded of the trauma and violation she suffered at the hands of a beast? What if that child bears a striking resemblance to her rapist?
Another argument forwarded by those in favour of abortion is that a child may enter puberty and start having menstrual cycles from as early as 10 years old, and if that child experiments with sex and becomes pregnant, should she carry the child?
This issue of abortion is a contentious one and both sides have valid points. However, as is the case in other jurisdictions, it will be mostly men who will decide what decision a woman must make.
It seems these men have experienced pregnancy. I for one cannot even begin to fathom what a woman goes through when something grows inside her for nine months.
Whatever decision the lawmakers arrive at, it would be prudent of them to include a wide cross-section of women to give their input into the matter. It is, after all, women who will be directly affected by the decision.
That is my view from the outside.
Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.