Below is a piece I wrote in 2019 in solidarity with The Honourable Juliet Cuthbert. It is my hope that in her new role as State Minister of Health and Wellness, with the assigned areas of maternal health, HIV prevention, reduction of drug abuse, the blood bank and the wellness agenda, that we will once again review the archaic laws on abortion in Jamaica, Allowing women better and equitable access to quality reproductive healthcare. I, along with many Sexual Reproductive Health Rights advocates are excited to see her take on her new role, and have high hopes for the improvement in maternal health and other relevant areas.
Member of Parliament for West Rural St. Andrew Juliet Cuthbert is a well-known Jamaican woman and is now in media for her stance on abortion. She is calling the House of Representatives to replace sections 72 and 73 of the Offences Against the Persons Act and replace it with the “Termination of Pregnancy Act” which was recommended in 2007 by the Abortion Policy Review Group.
In an effort to push for the law change, Juliet has hit on similar salient points that many Sexual Reproductive Health Rights advocates have echoed, which ultimately say that women should have the right to choose. That the aim of the law is to provide safe abortions to all women thus minimizing the mental and physical health risk and complications. We already know women are having abortions in Jamaica, Juliet isn’t here to convince you that abortions are right or wrong, but rather to ensure that women have access safe abortions.
Abortion is a ‘sore’ topic, there are many opinions on when life begins, what an abortion means and whether it is right or wrong. What many persons fail to realise is that it is a personal choice, meaning, if you think abortions are wrong- don’t have one. What should not happen, is that a person’s personal belief prevent women from accessing quality reproductive care. Illegal abortions have negatively impacted the health and wellbeing of many women with various mortality and morbidity consequences. Juliet herself speaks to losing a member of her constituency to a botched abortion. The bodies of women are their own, the law, men and other women do not own the body of a singular woman.
Legalising abortion does not promote abortion, what it does is provide women with a safe alternative, it allows women from all social classes to be able to access quality health care lessening the use of unorthodox and unsafe measures such as metal hangers and black-market pills, in order to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Legal abortions mean that women get proper medical treatment, it reduces the complications, it acknowledges the mental health concerns with abortion, and it removes the stigma.
Juliet has fanned the flames, bringing the fight for women’s reproductive rights and their right to access back to the forefront of Jamaican citizens and lawmakers’ minds.
I behind Juliet Cuthbert and encourage more Jamaicans to understand the need for legal abortions and to use their voices to echo and louden the voice of Juliet.
Samantha C. Johnson
Image for thumbnail taken from MP Juliet Cuthbert- Flynn/ West Rural St. Andrew Facebook Page.