Monday, July 22, 2013

Abortion — Jamaica needs a real SOS


THE World Health Organisation study suggests global abortion rates are steady at 28 per 1,000 women a year. However, the proportion of the total carried out without trained clinical help rose from 44 per cent in 1995 to 49 per cent in 2008. Unsafe abortion is one of the main contributors to maternal death worldwide, and refers to procedures outside hospitals, clinics and surgeries, or without qualified medical supervision. Women are more vulnerable to dangerous infection or bleeding in these environments.

In developing countries, particularly those with more restrictive abortion laws, most abortions are unsafe, with 97 per cent of abortions in Africa described this way. In comparison, 95 per cent of abortions in Latin America were deemed unsafe, falling to 40 per cent in Asia, 15 per cent in Oceania and nine per cent in Europe. To compile the figures -- often a difficult task in countries where abortion is illegal -- the researchers at the Guttmacher Foundation used surveys, official statistics and hospital records. They concluded that, while the abortion rate had fallen since 1995, that drop had now levelled off, and overall, the rise in world population meant that there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 compared with 2003.

In the Caribbean, Cuba followed the communist world in legalising abortion; Puerto Rico is part of the USA where abortion is legal and Martinique, Guadeloupe and the French side of St Maartin have legal abortions. Barbados became the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to introduce abortion legislation in 1983 with the passage of the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act. The Act permits legal abortion to save the life of the woman, if the child is likely to suffer severe abnormalities, for rape and incest, to protect the physical health and mental health of the woman, and for social and economic considerations. Doctors are also expected to provide those seeking abortions with counselling, the scope of which is outlined in the regulations. The Government of Guyana, in 1995, enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Act stipulates that abortions can legally be done, but there are conditions that must be met. In Guyana, abortions must be done by a qualified medical practitioner who is certified to conduct the procedure. The Act also requires the termination to take place in a safe place. Women who wish to terminate pregnancies undergo a strict process whereby they are counselled and told about the pros and cons of such an act. Those women are also given 48 hours to talk with her friends and family and the partner who has caused the pregnancy to make that decision.

Studies have revealed that 1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons, that is the child is unwanted or inconvenient. The truth is, in Jamaica, one of the greatest cycles of injustice against our children has been allowed to continue. One of the causes of child abuse is the bringing into the world children by parents who are unable to cope, did not want or plan the conception, or in other ways had no business having children due in part to their inability to take care of them, and the lack of proper parenting skills.

The Government has to spend more than $436 million to operate eight Government-run children's homes and places of safety. In her sectoral presentation, Minister Hanna reported that the "weekly cost of $13,000 per child or $676,000 per child per year. We currently have 334 children at these facilities." This is simply unsustainable. Correct this historic wrong.

July 22, 2013

Jamaica Observer